Kingston is a place composed of a wonderful variety of people. It’s nice to focus on being neighborly and learn more about one another — something we all should try to do more often. This week, we talked to 23-year-old Salem Corwin.
Morgan Y. Evans: How long have you lived in the area? What is your earliest memory here?
Salem Corwin: I was born in Manhattan, and my family moved to the Hudson Valley shortly after 9/11. So I’ve been living here ever since I was six years old! One of my earliest memories of Kingston is eating at Dietz [Stadium] Diner — which, over a decade later, is the signature stop for our family outings. We were terribly loud and rambunctious kids, but the staff has always known our names. It always feels like family there.
I hear you are an aspiring actor. What do you love about it? Goals?
I am absolutely an aspiring actor. After moving to the Catskills in first grade, my friend circle slowly declined until I had maybe two or three people I could call friends in high school. During this time I was also taking dance and acting classes at a local conservatory, a place at which body image and bullying was a huge problem for me. I was being bullied at school, I was being excluded at dance class (five days a week), and my weight was being policed at home — there was nowhere I truly felt safe. Then my high school (Onteora) decided to hold auditions for The Miracle Worker, and I was cast as the lead (Helen Keller). Out of that production, the Onteora Theater Club was born. I was 14 years old, and during that year I found a new home — the stage. I discovered that theater is a place everyone who has been rejected by the world around them can go to feel safe, and it’s a realm of genuine healing. It’s a place to create freely.
That must have been liberating.
For all of my high school years, I found myself using acting as a way to get people to like me. I was so thirsty for any tenderness or acceptance from the people around me, that I allowed it to consume me completely. But now — five years later, and a heck of a lot of training and soul-searching later — acting is still my forever home. I act because I love it, not because anyone loves me for doing it. All of our stories deserve to be told, and I believe that telling our truths on the stage will ultimately change the world.
That being said, my goals used to be “get famous!” But now, I just want to change the world and to nurture my best self in the process.
What is your favorite movie?
My absolute most favorite film on this Earth is Back to the Future. Growing up in the era of the-world-is-ending sci-fi films, Back to the Future was a world where the protagonist didn’t have all the answers and found friends in the most unlikely places. I also see a lot of myself in Marty McFly, if I’m being honest! He tries his best and thinks he’s cool, but really he’s a total mess.
What do you currently love about Kingston?
I absolutely adore the Historic District of Kingston in its entirety! It houses bookstores, coffee shops, record shops, and the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Center. The LGBTQ center is so full of warmth and love and energy, I love it. This community means clean air, fresh water, incredible music. It’s a pocket of life that we need to preserve.
What is an important current events issue to you?
Nationally, I have been witnessing the rapidly-rising murder rates of transgender women of color. When we talk about the Black Lives Matter movement, a common reaction is defensive: “well, white people matter too!” But when someone is raising awareness for people with terminal illnesses, no one goes online and says “Uhm, healthy lives deserve this love and attention too!” Our black neighbors are dying and growing up with unspeakable traumas, and we — white people — have to start standing up. Add transphobia into the mix, and you have a very real national crisis. The average lifespan, as of 2018, for a black transgender woman is 35 years. And it breaks my heart to pieces. The LGBTQ community’s rights as we know them exist because of transgender women of color — they should not have had to fight for our rights in 1970 only for us to fight against them in 2019.
What is a personal victory you’re proud of?
I am very proud of my personal growth and newfound confidence. College was horrific — for four years I was running away from my feelings, cutting off people who loved me, skipping auditions because I didn’t believe in myself, and trying to unlearn a lifetime of self-deprecation. Now I walk in auditions with my resume in hand, head held high and an open heart. I am not afraid anymore. I have rebuilt myself into a version of myself that I never could have imagined, and for that I am proud. I am auditioning for roles that match my true gender identity, and I am transitioning into my true self without apologies. And little 12-year-old Salem, with their long frizzy hair and constant sadness, would not be prouder.
To see more of Salem or for casting inquiries, visit www.salemcorwin.com/