Learning to Act Off Stage

By Company Member Casey Hayes-Deats

At some point in her career, an actor will have to face the daunting task of having to laugh uncontrollably when nothing is really very funny or wail and moan when the tears just don’t want to come. When this happens, the only thing to do is force yourself to release a sound before your brain has a chance to register just how ridiculous you are. If you can take action before you allow yourself to be ruled by fear and judgment, then you will find that wonderful, dangerously exciting moments can come when you are willing to take a risk.

Lately I have attempted to apply this same principle to my life off of the stage. When I have an idea for a creative project, I usually keep the idea to myself. I spend hours evaluating the worthiness of my idea, as well as my ability to see it through to the end. I worry about the ways in which I could fail more than I dream of the ways in which I could succeed. The result of these habits is that I expend a great amount of emotional energy, but ultimately have nothing to show for it. My idea is stifled until it is forgotten. But imagine what might be revealed if I were more willing to risk releasing my idea out into the world?

I actually already know the answer to this question. When I release my ideas out into the world, they have a far greater chance of becoming reality. A few years ago, I showed a friend the script for a play that I wanted to perform in. My friend became interested in directing the show, and in the year that followed we obtained the rights to the New York premiere, raised several thousand dollars for the production, and even managed to get reviewed by the New York Times. Had I not taken the initial risk of sharing my idea, none of that would have ever happened.

But even after such a success it is difficult to push past my own fears and judgments. Thus, as I continue to dream up new ideas, I am attempting to commit to several new habits. 1) Develop an elevator pitch for my idea, even if I still have more questions than answers. 2) Share my pitch with friends and colleagues who will hold me accountable. These are the people who will send me articles related to my area of interest. These are the people who will suggest that I talk to this person or read that book. These are the people who will ask for updates the next time that I see them. 3) Keep track of who said they were interested in being part of the project and invite them all to an event – a party, a workshop, a play reading. It doesn’t really matter what it is, I just need get my potential collaborators in a room together. This is a small but significant start that makes it infinitely more likely that a larger plan will fall into place.

The key principle behind these habits is getting out of my own way by taking action before my brain has a chance to convince me that it is a bad idea. If I share my idea with the world and open myself up to the possibility of collaboration, then it is likely that my initial ideas will grow to be much more that I could ever imagine. And if that doesn’t happen, that is okay too, because at least I will have done one of the hardest, most essential jobs of an artist: pushing past my fears for the sake of something with the potential to be much larger than myself.

1 reply
  1. Doug Sheppard
    Doug Sheppard says:

    Hi Casey,
    Your intellect and passion are propelling you into the next phase of your success. Thanks for sharing your insightful thoughts.


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