Student Spotlight: Freddy-May AbiSamra ('17)

Published on Feb 16, 2016

By Jaclyn Jermyn (’16)

Comedy Writing and Performance major Freddy-May AbiSamra has learned to think critically and academically about television and theater with her former position as Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Columbia publication, Watercooler Journal, as well as her interest in teaching acting to children.

Why did you choose Columbia?
I chose Columbia largely for my major and the Comedy Studies semester, a semester at Second City that is the capstone of my major, which I’m currently taking.

What has been your favorite class and professor so far?
One of my favorite classes was the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict course that I took to fulfill a history requirement. It’s not only a great history class, but it’s an important course that opens people’s eyes to what’s going on in the world right now. The professor, Hamman Chehade, knows what he’s talking about and knows how to engage a class.

In the theatre department, I have taken two classes with Magica Bottari: Basic Skills and Advanced Scene Study. Neither of these were your “easy A” acting class. Magica challenged us and demanded hard work, which has served me well as an actor.

Are there any extra-curriculars that are you involved in here at school?
I’m doing Comedy Studies right now, which is an intensive semester at the Second City, so I’m focusing on that. We take several classes and create a huge body of work with a group of 15 students and put on a showcase of our best work together at the end of the semester. My only official extracurricular was Watercooler Journal, which I was involved in until recently. 

Freddy May

What is the Watercooler Journal?
Watercooler Journal is a radically multimodal online academic journal that celebrates fan work about television.  As TV is changing, so is the way we talk about it.  The publication aims to broaden the elitist definition of academic criticism by including a variety of media: academic papers, gifs, videos, songs, tweets—if a fan created it, they can publish it. You can see the interactive issues

What were your responsibilities for the publication?
I was the Co-Editor-in-Chief, with Julian Axelrod. As editors, we ran most of the journal, checking in with our advisor Sara Livingston. We collected submissions, ran board meetings, built monthly issues, publicized our work, and represented the journal at various events.

Are there any skills have you learned at Columbia that helped you work on the publication?
I’ve learned to critically analyze media, which is definitely something necessary for Watercooler.  Further, Watercooler itself has led me to a greater appreciation of fan response and work.

A lot of what gets published is re-publication of things culled from the internet that fit in with each issue, and I love the feeling of finding a great artist on Tumblr, for example, who only has a few notes, and getting their work further out there. We acted as curators; I was always less concerned with putting my work in the journal as I was with getting recognition for other people’s work.

What’s your next big project? 
Well, I had my first experience teaching theatre this summer. I was a Teaching Assistant for ADVANCE Program for Young Scholars in Louisiana. I loved discovering that I could make a real impact on students' lives through it. Just helping them to access this vulnerable place of self-expression in a safe and welcoming community made them able to confidently be themselves and make discoveries about who they were. 

I think arts education can make a huge difference in people's lives, and I want to be a part of that difference. The joy I get out of seeing a student blossom far surpasses the joy I get out of performing.  Students are in a tough place, especially in middle and high school, where they can't express their emotions and identities, and theatre gives them a safe place to do that.