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Never be afraid to humiliate yourself…

March 21, 2011

I’m taking a class on Marketing for Playwrights taught by Chris Burney and Don-Scott Cooper from Second Stage.  This class shatters my soul just a little bit.  Chris and Don-Scott are fantastic; they have a vast knowledge and amazing view of the business and, so, are able to help playwrights in a highly specialized way.  However, they are totally honest with us.  Which can be a little soul shattering.  But they do give us some glue.

Two weeks ago, Chris came into class where we had set up our chairs in a circle.  There are 30 of us in a room, so the circle is what you’d naturally finagle yourselves into.  Chris walked to the corner outside the circle and sat in a red stool.  “Did any of you see this red stool back here?  Why didn’t anyone sit on it?”  I don’t know, Chris.  We always sit in a circle and I need more lumbar support than that. “In a room of 30 playwrights, where you are trying to stand out, why would you sit in a circle?”  Well… touché, Mr. Burney.

Now, here’s the thing about me.   No offense meant to my mature peers, who I respect immensely for either coming to the craft late in life or continuing to plug away for so long, but I am not willing to wait 40 years to be making my living as a playwright/lyricist. I am surrounded (and pleasantly so) by writers aged 30 and under that are paying their bills with what they write and I’m going to be 25 this summer.  Tick, tick, tick.  In addition, Second Stage has given me an artistic hard-on since I saw my first show there last year and the Associate Artist Director, as far as I’m concerned, just gave me a challenge.

So, I decide to do something at my next class.  I have a stomach ache for two weeks thinking about what I’m going to do.  I don’t sleep well for the three nights before.  The day of, I’m pretty sure I’m going to puke.  I’m walking into Primary Stages and my heart is banging against my chest.  I walk into the classroom and my hands start to shake.  I don’t look at anyone.  I walk to a chair in the circle, pick it up and place it in the center of the room.  I sit down.  Take out my notebook.  And look up at Chris Burney who looks at me and says, “Hm, alright.”  After sitting there for three minutes, Chris speaks again, “You’re not joking are you?”  “Nope.  I’m not joking.”  “Okay.”

For the first 30-45 minutes of class, I remain in the center of the room, obscuring many people’s views, avoiding many people’s eyes, and desperately trying to look composed while my hands shake in my lap.  (Despite what some of my classmates may have thought, I was NOT enjoying this.)

Chris did finally ask me to join the circle (thank baby Moses), but my point was made.  I was going to make Chris Burney notice me and show him that I am willing to put myself at risk to make my career happen.

We’re in a competitive business and often our work can’t carry us alone.  Actors go to EPAs for shows that are already cast, playwrights submit to theaters that throw their work into the recycling bin, and who knows how directors get work!  (I got my recent directing gig through a Twitter follower!  What??)  Chris needed to teach us that we have to make ourselves stand out among the throngs by being fearless, creative and utterly ourselves.  That stunt I pulled did have the potential to be disastrous and it’s not something I’d try with many people.  That was tailored to the person I was trying to reach, as my future stunts will be as well!

So, I’ve added an addendum to my motto, “If it scares me, I should do it.”: “Never be afraid to humiliate yourself.”

Be brilliant, be happy!


photo credit


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Hats Off Casting permalink
    March 21, 2011 10:36 am

    Well put, Rogue Artist. I believe this article is more relevent today than it ever has been. There are so few paying jobs at the moment, and if you don’t separate yourself from the competition, how are you going to get a second look or a first one? A bold choice can be the difference between unemployment and a great job, but do know your audience.

  2. estelle permalink
    March 22, 2011 12:14 pm

    All I can say is good for you! I don’t know if I would have had the guts. But it is incredibly empowering to read this. Wishing you luck!

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