Advice for beginners

Minnesota Playlist asked theater professionals for their advice to people just getting started in the performing arts business. Here are a few of the responses:

Polly Carl, former producing artistic director of the Playwright’s Center and current Director of Artistic Development at the Steppenwolf Theate:

I guess what I usually tell people at the front end of a career in the arts is to not spend a lot of time asking “if”–“if it makes sense?” “if it’s really possible?” but rather start from the question of “how?” Then I say the first order of business is to become your own arts administrator. If you stand around waiting for an institution or an artistic director to make something happen in your career it’s likely you’ll be standing around waiting for a long time. Instead be your own institution and your own artistic director and take charge of your career from the get go.

Aditi Kapil, playwright and performer in the Twin Cities:

I generally don’t give advice, but I guess I think you need to be ok with two things: 1. Making a complete ass of yourself regularly, with all the embarrassment, cringing, humility that involves, because if you’re not, you’re playing it safe, which only takes you so far. 2. Working harder than most people consider reasonable at a job that pays little and erratically for the privilege of making an ass of yourself regularly. But also, hopefully, for those magical moments when it all clicks, and you connect with people in that way that only art can, making all that labor completely worth it.

Michelle Hensley, artistic director and founder of Ten Thousand Things Theatre:

Ask yourself the question “Why do theater?” Really. Why, in this troubled of a world, do you need to do it and why does the world need you to do it? Dig deep and ask it hard and often to yourself. Then, throw away the rules of how institutions have made us think theater has to be, follow your heart and make it up yourself. Make it up from scratch — find out what you really need and throw away whatever you don’t.

You can read the full list of advice here.

What about you? What advice would you give to an aspiring artist?

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