Set it up for Success!
When someone sets out to create something, there is no guarantee that they will achieve their vision. Failures will inevitably occur. There is no recipe for success. However, there are things an artist can do that can give them a push in the direction they’re aiming. Steps that increase the likelihood (though never guarantee it) of succeeding.
Whatever our chosen theatrical craft, be it performer, writer, director, producer, designer or stage manager, the most basic thing, that many of us already do, to aid us in our goal of working in our industry, is to learn about and train in our craft. Going to school for our chosen profession doesn’t guarantee that we will be successful in working in that profession, but it certainly helps. This is not new information. Like I mentioned, many of us know this, and take steps to learn about our craft. This is just an example of one thing that we can do to help ourselves reach our goals.
Know your goal
In thinking about how to set up for success, it occurred to me that the first thing one needs to know in order to succeed, is what success looks like. I’ve written before about the importance of being aware of your own rubrics for success, and I can’t stress it enough. For some in the theatrical community, their goal is to just do ‘it’, whatever that ‘it’ is: to perform, to write, to get a show on its feet in front of an audience. The goal is the thing itself, and it’s a fine goal. This is where community theatre and hobbies exist. The joy is in the doing of the art, and that is enough. For others, the goal is not just doing ‘it’. It may be to attract interest, and be noticed by other industry professionals. It may be to create something popular for a general audience. It may be to push one’s own creative boundaries, and create something one hasn’t before. There are so many goals, and the only way to aim for your goal is to know what exactly it is. Know it so that you can state it clearly.
Find others who share your goal
Theatre is, unavoidably, a collaborative industry. You will have to work with others. Yes, there are some things you can do on your own, but eventually, if you want to put it on stage, you are going to have to connect with others, and something that can help avoid many headaches, and heartaches, when trying to reach your goal, is to team up with others who have the same goal as you. There are a handful of shows I’ve been apart of that have been amazing experiences, and when I thought about why, I realized that it’s because everyone on the show was on the same page; we were all aiming for the same thing. We knew the level of professionalism and dedication required, and we were all on board to achieve it. It’s not always easy to find those who want what you want, but the more you state your goal clearly, the more likely you are to find those who have the same one, and once you find them, you will finally be a little closer to achieving your vision. As a side note, your collaborators will also be closer to achieving their vision, and that just leads to a more enjoyable and exciting experience for all.
Do the work
Do the work for what you want. The harder your goal, the more work it will be. If you really want it though, do all you can to achieve it. If you want to be a working actor, work on your skills, submit and go to auditions, maybe get an agent to help, maybe make your own work. It sounds simple, maybe even easy, but it’s not. It’s a lot of work.
If you want to write something excellent, first you have to write it, which is hard enough, then you will have to re-write, and re-write, and re-write. It took Lin-Manuel Miranda six years to write the musical ‘Hamilton’. He had a vision, and he gave himself the time, he worked hard, and asked for a lot of help. It wasn’t easy, but he did it anyway.
If you want to have a polished production, you will need time to rehearse. When studying directing in university, I was taught that every minute of stage time requires an hour of rehearsal. Why is that? Because rehearsal is for making mistakes; if you don’t give yourself the time to explore and try everything out, to find out what doesn’t work, you won’t discover what does. Solid rehearsal time sets up everyone in a production, from the actors to the stage manager, to feel confident in the show itself, and be able to give everything to the show, rather than worrying about what comes next, or what is, or isn’t, working. It’s also essential to give time to rehearsal because it’s the time to collaborate, and discover what others bring to the table. Though you may share the same end goal, how you approach the work, and perhaps your vision of a piece, may be different, and finding a common vision takes time. It’s not easy, but it’s what is required if you want a polished show.
Mistakes happen, failures occur, learn from them
So you thought you were on the same page, vision wise, with a collaborator, only to learn that wasn’t the case. So the script you hoped would make audiences laugh, ended up being a tear jerker. So you thought the space you were performing in had adequate lighting, but it didn’t and half the show is in shadow. What do you do? First, admit the mistake, accept the failure. If you don’t, you are likely to keep the making the same mistakes over and over again. Only by accepting what didn’t work can you fix it for next time. Which is the next step: fix the mistake. Do it in production, if you can. Do it for next time, if you can’t. Mistakes will happen, but they can be golden learning opportunities, as long as you keep your vision clearly at the forefront.