Student Profiles

Theater Star Pursues the Spotlight At All Costs, Anxiety Included 

A Jack of All Trades, Master of Mental Health  

By: Yasmine Abdeldayem

Kayla Goldfarb double majors in English and theater at CSI. In the latter, her anxiety’s a hurdle to cross. Credit: Kayla Goldfarb

Anxiety wages a war within college students worldwide; one determined student at CSI made the theatrical stage her battlefield.   

“I had really bad social anxiety and it used to impact me,” said Goldfarb. “Even just raising my hand in class would be like I’m climbing Mount Everest.”  

Surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019 by the ACHA revealed that 60% of college students reported experiencing “overwhelming anxiety”. A 2018 study at the University of Michigan highlighted the same solution that Kayla Goldfarb sought out: theater. After a ten-week improvisational theater program, students with social anxiety discovered a reduction in the severity of their symptoms.  

Goldfarb’s immersion in the theater world has been more than a ten-week stint. Her transfer to CSI during her sophomore year marked the beginning of a theater-laden experience that would bestow more than just acting opportunities upon her. Armed with ambition and the tips she’d gleaned from notable professors like Sean Edgecomb, Goldfarb distanced herself from her comfort zone step by step.  

At 21, Goldfarb started writing for a theater newsletter called Under the Radar. She directed a short play titled Lucky Penny at a women’s playwriting festival near the end of summer 2021. She acted in another titled Fucking Harold, which was a comedy directed by her girlfriend, whom she met at CSI. 

Fucking Harold marked Goldfarb’s first time onstage since before the pandemic put the world on hold. The gig came with that all too familiar surge of anxiety, but eventually, the sound of the audience’s laughter set in. They were hooked on her performance and enjoyed every line she spoke; it was the reassurance she needed to seamlessly slip into her role. 

For many years, anxiety barred Goldfarb from making that in-depth connection with her love for plays. It wasn’t until 2017, her senior year of high school, that she decided to take the leap. No longer content to admire from afar, Goldfarb auditioned for her school’s theatrical adaptation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and snagged the supporting roles of Candy Star and a nurse. 

The spotlight shines on Goldfarb when she’s acting, the plays’ successes hinge upon her cool-headedness when she’s managing the stage, the story relies on her vision when she’s directing. Exposure to numerous cornerstones of theater was the biggest hands-on approach to overcoming her anxiety. She admitted that of her theatrical obligations, acting presented the biggest challenge.  

“I would have anxiety attacks, like after an acting class, because I just performed in front of people,” said Goldfarb. “During my acting, I’d be like, I have no idea what I just did.” 

She cites her performance in Fucking Harold as one of the first times that her memory was untainted after she’d stepped offstage. She tips her hat to therapy for paving a part of the way and making room for the bold presence of theater in her life.

Currently in her final semester at CSI, she’s nearing the end of her rigorous track as a double major in English and theater. She has acted, directed, stage-managed two shows, and became well-versed in the art of playwriting. From pitching ideas, to reciting lines in costume, to acting as the point of contact for several theater professionals, Goldfarb conquered it all.

Goldfarb admits that she still has moments when anxiety creeps in. Emboldened by the magic of musicals and thought-provoking tales, she makes it to curtain call nonetheless.  

“I have to push through it because I’m literally on stage in front of people and I can’t give in to my anxiety,” said Goldfarb. “I have to tell the story.” 

Categories: Student Profiles

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