Growing up on Long Island, Tina Marie Realmuto’s love for acting was recognized in middle school, and she has pursued acting ever since. All throughout high school (hello, Class Valedictorian) and college (where she graduated a year early!), Tina got involved with all things acting-related. By studying amazing actors, stepping on-stage night after night, and living and breathing theater, Tina demonstrated her commitment to her craft.
Tina is not only talented and passionate about her work, but she is humble and motivated. With a great deal of experience in theater, Tina is also involved with films. She most recently finished shooting the short film, Whispers Of Guitar Strings, where she played one of the film’s lead roles. By working hard, feeding her passion, and constantly learning and improving, Tina is on the fast-track to stardom.
In-between classes at the Actors Studio Drama School in New York City, Tina sat down with Carpe Juvenis to share how she deals with stage fright, how she prepares for roles, and what her experience at graduate school has been like. Attention aspiring actors and actresses, take notes! Tina is seizing her youth and taking every opportunity possible to learn and hone her skills, and we can’t wait to see her on the big screen and Broadway!
Name: Tina Marie Realmuto
Education: Currently working towards Masters of Fine Arts in Acting at the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University in NYC; Bachelor of Arts in Theater from Connecticut College
How do you define ‘seizing your youth’?
Seizing your youth means to take advantage of opportunities that you are given at a young age and to really try to find out what you want to do with your life and go full throttle and go with it. Life is short. Follow your passion. Realize your dreams and try to pursue them.
What did you major in at Connecticut College and how did you determine what to study?
I majored in theater at Connecticut College and got my Bachelor of Arts, and I was determined to study theater before I even applied to Connecticut College. In high school I took theater classes and just loved them. After that I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life and realized that acting was my passion. I applied to some conservatories – not many because I wanted to do a liberal arts program to get a more well-rounded education – and decided to continue with acting.
Did you study abroad?
Unfortunately I did not because I graduated a year early so I wasn’t able to study abroad with my schedule. I would have loved to. I probably would have gone to Italy or England because they have great theater. I definitely want to travel. Once I’m done with my Masters [at the Actors Studio Drama School], I would love to travel and see the sights and absorb the world.
What was your experience like graduating early?
Graduating early was tough to leave my friends and leave that part behind me, but once I got into the Actors Studio Drama School, it allowed me to see the next step and goal, which relieved a lot of uncertainty. It was very helpful.
What or who inspired you to become an actress?
Meryl Streep is my all-time favorite actress. I saw a couple of movies of hers when I was younger, but there were a lot of serious roles that I wasn’t allowed to see until I was a teenager. It was Mamma Mia that I fell in love with Meryl. I love the music of ABBA and the role she played, you saw a different side of her. Her versatility shined, and it helped me realize that this is what I want to do.
How do you mentally and physically prepare for a role?
This answer has changed since coming into my Masters program. Before, I really just read the script and tried to identify with the character, see similarities in her that I possess. However, now at the Actors Studio Drama School, my process is incorporating the Method. It’s a technique to acting that is grounded in the work of Stanislavski and it basically explains that inspiration can only bring you so far. Sometimes you are automatically inspired with the role, but sometimes you can’t get that inspiration.
We do a technique where you do different sensory work. First you do relaxation so you can relieve your body of external tensions and stresses. Then you do sensory work, which helps me connect more with my emotional memory, which brings forth an organic and truthful emotion. It’s very difficult and emotionally and physically draining at times, but it’s so rewarding when you are able to access that part of yourself that I was never able to access before the program.
In terms of mentally preparing, it’s the sensory work and relaxation. I do different vocal warm-ups and learned how to do a series of steps that trains your voice to be more resonant – this way you won’t lose your voice onstage.
How do you stay motivated through each performance?
It all comes back to that inspiration. What inspires you? What drives you forward? Also for the character, what are her motivations? Since I haven’t been in a very long run before – such as months and years – but only for 10-12 performances, I really try to stay in the moment and remember that it’s a new audience every time. You owe that to the audience since they are coming to see the show for the first time. It’s also important to stay true to the character. I try to be motivated and try to do each part justice and do my part to tell the story.
What is one of the greatest lessons you have learned from being a working actress?
I have been very fortunate in that getting into grad school was an experience in itself. The audition process was grueling, but it prepared me for the real world as a working actress. It’s important to know that you’re not going to get every role that you try out for, and that you need to have confidence in yourself. I’ve learned in this program that you have to believe in yourself and your abilities. Appreciate the opportunities you’re given; be grateful for them, and give 100% of yourself and in the end you’ll be rewarded for that. Also, just be nice to people and be polite, courteous, and never think of yourself superior in any way. This program has helped me as an actress and a person. I view the world differently.
What was the audition process like?
Most of the schools I applied for I had to do classic and contemporary monologues. For Pace, which I love, I had to do a scene with a partner. My mom offered to do the scene with me, and I was like, “why not?!” We did a scene from Steel Magnolias. It was only five minutes long, and it was a beautiful, surreal experience. I auditioned for Elizabeth Kemp, and we performed the scene, and then she came out and spoke to us individually. She told us both that we had to think of someone that we lost and would do anything to bring back. We both picked the same person unknowingly. We did the scene again and genuine emotion was coming out, and I was bawling my eyes out. Just from those two minutes of guidance from Elizabeth, it helped me perform the best acting of my life.
Do you have a pre-show ritual?
I am a spiritual person and have faith. I also try to incorporate preparatory work and try to get to an authentic emotional place for the character.
How do you overcome self-doubt or stage fright?
Self-doubt is hard because in this profession, we shouldn’t center ourselves on accolades from people, but we do need that feedback. However, you can’t let negative comments or feedback make you think less of yourself and your abilities. Self-doubt is hard, and I went through a lot of debate about whether I should go into this industry. At the end of the day, you have to realize how much this enriches your life and as a human being. It’s a constant battle throughout my life, but I keep pushing forward.
Sometimes I get nervous right before I go onstage, but once I’m onstage I’m usually okay. Thankfully, my stage fright hasn’t affected my performance. What helps me is realizing that it is my physicality up onstage, but I’m really being someone else. This way, it makes me feel less judged because it’s not me as Tina, but me as my character. I’m telling the story of someone else, which helps me feel less self-conscious. I focus on doing the best I can as my character.
What advice do you have for youth who want to be professional actors/actresses?
Everyone’s journey is different. For me, it was great to go to a liberal arts school and study theater, as well as other subjects, and then go to an acting graduate school for training and to get more experience. Other people might want to go straight into theater after high school.
Be true to yourself and really hone in on what you want to do. I know it’s hard to figure that out when you’re 17-years-old, and I’m fortunate that I knew what I wanted to do. Start now when you have the time and energy to accomplish things. When I’m in my 30’s, I’d like to have a family and kids, but now is my time to do what I want to do.
What does a day in your life look like?
My days are a little crazy. Right now my days are filled up with classes for the program. I’m taking a theater history class, acting, voice & speech and a movement class where we learn how to use our physical bodies with acting. I spend time studying and rehearsing, but just trying to enjoy it all at the same time.
What activities were you involved in throughout high school? Were there any experiences that were most memorable or life changing?
In high school I was involved in theater and dance classes, which propelled my love for theater. I didn’t audition for major productions because I was an AP student so I had a lot of homework. Academics were the most important thing to me in high school even though I knew I loved theater. It ended up being great that I did that because I had enough AP credits to graduate early. I focused on theater classes in college. I was in an Italian Foreign Language Honor Society Club and I was involved with Best Buddies, which is a program that worked with special needs students.
In college I participated in Gospel Choir. I also did a lot of behind-the-scenes work such as sound design and set construction. I tried to do different elements of theater, but I realized acting was my true passion.
You attend the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University. What has your experience been like going to graduate school in New York City?
I grew up on Long Island, but I was thrown by living in New York City. I love the Broadway strip and it’s great to absorb so much culture. It’s also great to observe people, especially as an actor, just walking down the street. I’ve been more observant of people and their habits and behaviors. I love New York City and lower Manhattan. I haven’t been able to see too many shows because of my grueling schedule, but I love that I have the city at my fingertips.
How has the Actors Studio Drama School changed the way you act or view acting?
It has changed me in every way. I came here with a notion of what to do, but this program went on a deeper level. The amount of authenticity in emotion that comes through the work and preparation is mind-blowing. It transcends you in a way, and it borderlines a surreal experience. It taught me a different view on life. I realized that our creativity is inside of us and we just have to tap into it. A lot of people have it, but they don’t have the means or inclination to do it. I really recommend this program, I love my professors, and I’m so grateful to be here.
What has your favorite role been?
In Elizabeth’s class, I played Corie in Barefoot in the Park by Neil Simon. It was so freeing. My partner and I had great chemistry and I learned so much from the scene.
In a couple of weeks I’ll be playing Catherine in A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller. It’s great because it’s an Italian-American family in Brooklyn in the 1950’s. I can’t wait to do that. It’s part of a festival where we perform scenes.
What motivates you in your everyday life?
I would say my family. I’m very family-oriented. I have a great mother and father, best friends, and wonderful grandparents. The love is there. I try to do that in all my work; I try to find the love. Even when people are screaming at each other, the love is beneath everything.
Also, I try to be a good human being. I try to be positive, even when I’m tired. To bring joy to people, that’s a huge motivation. I think about acting and theater all the time, but I’m also a normal person who enjoys reading, seeing friends, and watching TV and movies. My art really drives me though.
Who is your role model?
Meryl Streep, of course. I also love Ellen Burstyn, who I met during orientation last year. My mom is a wonderful role model for me just as a woman and a mother. I hope to be as great of a mother as she is one day. She’s been a great support system and role model for me.
What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?
Have faith in yourself. Have confidence. You can do it.
What’s next for you?
I want more film experience. I’ve been so involved with theater, which is my passion, but I’d love to try different mediums of acting. Watching film actors as a child really propelled me into acting. Once I graduate, I hope to become a lifetime member of the Actors Studio and I hope to come back here to teach and continue the legacy that they have established.