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Student Blog: If I Could Tell You One Thing

Hindsight Wisdom From Theatre Professionals

Student Blog: If I Could Tell You One Thing

If I had a time machine, I would go visit myself in college to discuss the notion of scarcity. 'Relax a little.' I'd say, 'Make room for people. There's space for all of us here.' And then, intoxicated by my newfound power, I'd probably get carried away and sagely impart myself with the following advice: 'Get comfortable with not having a "thing". You never will, and that isn't you anyway. The small moving parts make up a whole, you just can't see what it is yet.'

I am now firmly rooted into my first semester in graduate school, and I find myself thinking about my undergraduate career with more compassion than ever before. After just a decade of lessons-learned, some much harder-earned than others, I wonder what I would have done differently if I had the chance, what I wish I could have learned earlier, and what words of wisdom I might offer myself - as if I would have listened. I decided to reach out to other theatre professionals, and invite them to ponder this with me. I've collected responses from theatre artists, actors, directors, producers, administrators, teachers, and writers, and I am delighted to share their responses with you. Here's what they had to say.

Don Aucoin, Theatre Critic, The Boston Globe

Student Blog: If I Could Tell You One Thing

I wish I'd known at 21 that a professional path is a very different thing than an educational path: much less linear, with fewer clear milestones, and thus not amenable to arbitrary timetables for achieving this or that by a particular age. Then I'd have been better prepared for the winding journey my journalism career actually became. And I'd have understood from the beginning that whenever I became a theater critic - even if it wasn't until I was well into middle age, which is what happened - was exactly the right moment.

Christine Toy Johnson, Actor, Writer, & Advocate for Inclusion

Student Blog: If I Could Tell You One Thing

Do the work and don't be afraid to keep showing up - because your dreams coming true will most certainly look different from how you first imagined them to be.

Tonja Withers, Executive Assistant to the Chief Advancement Officer, Public Theater

Student Blog: If I Could Tell You One Thing

The greatest advice I would give to myself is to keep going and don't let the constant NO's discouraged me. The word NO is a major part of this business, but if I had the determination to press forward instead of being discouraged, I would have gone so much farther in my life. Keep pursuing your dreams no matter how many times you hear the word NO. Eventually, there will be a YES!

William Nallett, Local #4 IATSE Stagehand

Student Blog: If I Could Tell You One Thing

Never intentionally burn a bridge, and place value in the friendships you forge in the workplace. The relationships you make at the onset of any career will follow you, grow to fruition, and most likely become the ones you rely upon later. The other thing I'd say is to never stop learning. Expanded your knowledge base and always be willing to teach yourself new skills.

Rebecca Noon, Director of Community Engagement, Guthrie Theater

Student Blog: If I Could Tell You One Thing

I know you think you're supposed to go to a conservatory program and end up on Broadway, but the pathway you're carving is actually much more interesting and much more 'you.' Don't wait for other people to give you permission to make the art you want to make and don't put too much weight into other people's opinions of what you are interested in. When you feel impatient or like you're not 'on track,' try to relax and have fun. You'll be busier than you can imagine soon enough, so now is a beautiful time to enjoy your friends, family, and just being young. Don't worry so much about being enough: you are enough. Lastly, save your money and don't try to become a Pilates teacher. It's not the solution!

Charles McNulty, Theatre Critic, LA Times

Student Blog: If I Could Tell You One Thing

In "All's Well that Ends Well," Shakespeare compares "the web of our life" to a "mingled yarn, good and ill together," our virtues and our faults combining into an unrepeatable pattern. To chase a shimmering ideal is tempting, but true richness lies in embracing one's own body, voice, heart, and mind. Don't give up your place in history, for there is no one else who can take it.

Pablo Hernandez Basulto, Public Works National Associate, Public Theater

Student Blog: If I Could Tell You One Thing

When making decisions, thinking of them as permanent is overwhelming because there's no way for you to know all the answers for the rest of your life right now. In reality, you will continue to have agency to make a new choice further along, so focus on allowing yourself to be changed by your choices. You'll be a new person on the other end, able to see options and make decisions that you would've never thought possible right now.

Jason Grossman, Tony and Olivier award-winning producer, PLUSH Theatricals

Student Blog: If I Could Tell You One Thing

There are amazing ideas out there, and don't wait for the perfect one. Find a project, musical, play you are passionate about and figure out how to get it done. Don't worry about Broadway, or New York City. Theater is created everywhere and you can find a path to New York when the time is right.

Miguel Romero, Scenic Designer, Scenic Artist, Teacher, and proud member of Local 829

Student Blog: If I Could Tell You One Thing

You are entering a most competitive field, performing arts. My advice is to ask questions and listen so you understand the job/role you are applying for and focus your talents in the desired direction. Making this connection is key to success in an audition, interview or showing off your portfolio. You get little time. Team work is how the field functions, being a good listener could be what makes you stand out.

Alyssa Simmons, Associate General Manager, Public Theater

Student Blog: If I Could Tell You One Thing

Be curious about every single person in the room. The better you understand the work of your colleagues and fellow collaborators, the better you'll be able to support their work and the production through your own efforts, and then we're all succeeding.

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