Big Apple-bound: Beatrice Onions can't wait to be a part of New York


As if Beatrice Onions’ first semester studying performing arts at New York University wasn’t dramatic enough, it took another interesting twist last week.

Because of Covid-19, the 21-year-old Queenstowner, who first took drama classes at the age of nine, undertook her first term at the university’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts by Zoom.

Fitting in with New York time, her classes, beginning last August, started at ‘‘probably the most incompatible time zone difference’’ of 3am each day.

‘‘We had a movement class, it was awful, it was 4am.’’

Nevertheless, the experience was ‘‘truly incredible — the teachers are so inspirational’’.

Now, for the next semester, starting on Thursday, students will attend in-person — including Onions, who flew out to the United States a week ago before starting four days’ quarantine on arrival.

Speaking before she flew out, she says ‘‘I have been lucky enough to go to New York before, and it’s brilliant and chaotic and amazing’’.

‘‘I feel really honoured to be able to see it when it’s struggling.

‘‘I feel like it is a study of drama just being and living in New York.’’

She admits it’s ‘‘nerve-wracking’’, given Covid-19’s deadly grip on the United States, but she’s confident she’ll be really safe.

‘‘New York University’s got all these really strict measures in place.

‘‘Believe me, I have got all the masks, all the disinfectant wipes, everything you could possibly want, and more.’’

After leaving Wakatipu High in 2018, Onions tried but failed to get into drama schools in England.

Looking for something to do instead, Wakatipu Community Foundation CEO Jennifer Belmont encouraged her to help start up Youth Philanthropy New Zealand, which organised Wakatipu High’s first ‘Generation Give’ programme two years ago.

‘‘It was perfect because my two passions are really theatre and philanthrophy.’’

Then, at the last minute, on December 31, 2019, she applied for Tisch School of the Arts just before applications closed.

For references she roped in former teachers and high school principal Steve Hall who wrote his while holidaying.

She did an interview by Zoom, little knowing how commonplace that’d become — and was bowled over to be accepted.

She feels Tisch’s teachers are just a continuation of ‘‘such an abundance of incredible mentors’’ she had growing up, including Jenny Brinsley, Margaret O’Hanlon and the late Kate Moetaua.

When she finishes her four-year bachelor of performing arts, Onions says she intends returning to Queenstown and giving back.