A Storyteller Tells Her Story


The Art in Society IDY Talks series picks up after Winter Break this Thursday evening, Jan. 27, at 7 PST. Idyllwild Arts Academy Theatre major Emunah Zagata-Jacobson, speaking on campus in Krone Library and here on Zoom, will share her personal story around storytelling, why she considers herself a storyteller, and how she has arrived at that label for herself after eighteen years of creative pursuits and passions.

Emunah, a four-year Academy senior, has a background as original as her future figures to be. Born in Oregon, she was six when her family moved to the Indonesian island province of Bali. 

Famously, Bali offers paradisal natural beauty and a rich, diverse artistic tradition. For Emunah, Bali also offered Green School Bali, the wall-less bamboo school founded by John Hardy, father of Idyllwild Arts Academy graduate Elora Hardy, founder of the groundbreaking IBUKU team of bamboo designers and architects. In Bali, Emunah truly began to discover her love of stories and storytelling. She participated in annual plays, began to learn marimba, and made plans with her friends to write their own novels and open a publishing company. 

Back in the United States at age ten, Emunah’s inspiringly unorthodox education continued at Manzanita School, in Topanga, in the Santa Monica mountains just outside Los Angeles. 

After attending Green School Bali and Manzanita School, Emunah was not going to be content with a conventional high school, so it may have been inevitable that she would discover Idyllwild Arts.    

“I’ve been a part of the Art in Society program since my freshman year. I clicked the little box on my application agreeing that I was interested and I am so glad I did. Art in Society has given me the opportunity to step up and be a leader in situations I never expected, such as helping to plan and run symposiums. It has allowed me to be part of what I think art really can be used for. I want to use art and stories to help people connect to each other and themselves so that our collective experiences can help create a society we all want to live in.” 

At the Academy, Emunah chose to major in Theatre. The Theatre Department has lived up to its outstanding reputation. Yet Idyllwild Arts also offers exceptional opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaboration. She has made the most of these, taking classes in multiple departments and taking part in film productions and collaborative productions between the Creative Writing Department and Theatre, such as the Creative Writing Labs.

“I want to be thought of first of all as a storyteller more than any other artistic label. I have always been a curious, creative person, and I see stories everywhere. Idyllwild Arts has helped me realize just how many ways I love to tell and experience them. Here I’ve been able to tell stories through performance, scriptwriting for both film and theatre, digital art, animation, conversation, filmmaking, and dance. And I’ve recently begun to explore the world of music: I’ve started to learn bass! Here, I’ve really learned how much I enjoy collaborating to create new work and taking on new roles. I’ve always appreciated getting to work with both fellow student artists and professionals and getting new experiences through that. I’ve also learned what it takes to be a leader and I am now very confident in my leadership capabilities. When it’s called for I’m excited to lead projects, but I’m also very happy just to be part of a team.”

Success in Educating a Citizen-Artist

Emunah pauses. For her interview she has come out of her dorm to sit beneath a perfect blue sky. She has been able to remove her mask. Even though the afternoon is cold, she enjoys the sunshine and the smell of the pine trees that surround her.

In her case, it seems clear that Idyllwild Arts Academy has succeeded beautifully in achieving its goal of educating a citizen-artist, capable of imagining countless ways to make a creative impact on society. The success of the Idyllwild Arts education for Emunah shows itself, in part, through her approach to her forthcoming college education. She envisions a college education that will cultivate creativity, versatility, and passion for collaboration, just as the Academy does. 

“I’ve applied to sixteen colleges and eleven different majors. I am not trying to set a certain course for my life with my Bachelor’s degree, especially as my academic goals include a Ph.D. I’m looking at my major as a way to learn valuable skill sets.”

One of the majors she is applying for is Theatre Management. 

“I know that if I study Theatre Management I will graduate with a skill set that can include even stronger communication skills, an understanding of economics, budgeting, and business. I’ll have been able to improve my management skills and learn more about arts administration and what it takes, in general, to run a company. I’m very interested in business. It’s the reason anything happens in the modern world. And I would be really excited to explore a new facet of theatre, which I already love.”

She smiles. Clearly, she has invested a lot of thought in these choices. She mentions some of the other majors she applied to.

“The Global Management Program at UC Berkeley, where my father went, Communications, Comparative Religions, Sound Design and Filmmaking, Business, Folklore and Mythology, Dramaturgy. . .”

Her voice trails off and she smiles again. 

“Recently I’ve really had to consider what I want from my life and I know that I want to be involved in helping facilitate conversations and tell stories that will help people connect to each other and themselves. Stories, history, and people have always been the things that have tied all my passions together, and I am excited to get to tell people more about that in my IDY Talk.”

Join Emunah on Jan. 27, 7 PST, in Krone Library and right here as she relates in more detail the story of how she has grown into the person she is today because of storytelling.