Street Marketing

Recently, I was involved in a campaign to promote the Greater Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra's final concert, which featured music from Argentina, specifically tango. There were two professional dancers who performed during a handful of numbers, and as a fun promotional tool, I was hired to supervise tango dancing living statues, who would appear in various locations around town, 

How to Network

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Help for the Common Shy Person

by Jared Fladeland

Conduit Theatre

While living along the West Coast, from Los Angeles to Portland, I somehow learned to network. I never took any classes or workshops on the subject, I merely made my way through the city the best I could. And after a few years, I realized I had a pretty large network. Since making my way back to the Midwest, in the town of Grand Forks (located not too far from Winnipeg, Fargo, or Minneapolis/St. Paul), I have to make use of those skills in a more concerted effort as I develop my presence and reputation for my work as a theatre artist. I wanted to share some of the insights I’ve had along the way.

 

Have a Message

In Los Angeles, I tended to think of this as “always be working on something.” Even if it was as simple as a passion project that may or may not come to fruition. But if you have a message, it is something you can rely on if someone asks you what you’re up to.

For example, I have a solo show that I premiered in the fall of last year. And it is always a project that I am further developing, rewriting scripts, trying to promote for bookings. However, it is a slow journey at times, for multiple reasons. But I’m working on it. It’s something I can talk about. The message is something that is important to me. I have passion for it.

You can also think of a message as having a brand. It’s what you want to be known for. I have a reputation as the clown/mime/living statue guy. I’ve created formal gala entertainment and had people ask me if I was going to be doing it in clown make-up (I didn’t). Part of that brand is also knowing why I am doing it: Because I want to fill the streets of this town with magic. I want someone to be walking down the street and encounter something or someone that they never expected, and for the rest of the day, they might have a smile on their face because they ran into a crazy character on the street who took a selfie with them to promote an event.

I also have boiled down the purpose of my company to my three C’s: Create, curate, and collaborate on theatrical events that connect people together. That’s another thing I can talk about at length if anyone asks.

I have all of these stored away for use. Which brings me to point number two:

 

Forget the Message.

Seriously. Once you know what you can talk about, just forget about it. I’m reminded of that popular internet meme: Ain’t nobody got time for that!

The reason for this is simple: You don’t want to FORCE the message on anyone. If you are pushing it onto every person you meet at a social function, you may find yourself having the opposite intended effect. There is a reason for this that we touch on in a moment, but first, just imagine: Have you ever been stuck in a conversation with someone that only talks about themselves? It can get a bit annoying.

If you forget about your message when approaching a new connection, this allows space for the conversation to move in any direction. It can flow from topic to topic. It may at some point reach your message, or it may never reach that point. And either way is okay.

Having a message simply allows you to have confidence when you walk into a room. You have something important to say. And you know how to articulate it in a concise, powerful way. Imagine if you only have two-three minutes chatting with someone, what is it they should know about you and what you’re trying to do right now? That should be in your back pocket, no need to wave it like a giant banner around the room.

 

Be More Interested in Others

There’s an old adage, “Humans were given two ears and one mouth because they should listen twice as much as they speak”. Apply this to networking situations. Be curious. Most people love talking about themselves and their interests, so be willing to ask them questions. Find out what makes them tick. Find where their passions and your passions intersect.

It is where these intersections exist that progress can be made. I have never found a more positive impact on my relationships than finding common goals with a new friend. We may attack the problem from completely different perspectives, but it also allows opportunity for two different ventures to come together (even if just briefly) to accomplish something before going their own ways.

 

Don’t Look for Advancement

People can sniff out someone who is simply trying “to get ahead”. It can leave a bad taste in one’s mouth dealing with someone who is being artificially polite and trying to keep your attention. If I learned anything from years in large cities, I learned to not be that person.

If you don’t focus on this, you’ll be surprised. By the time I left LA, I had a pretty wide net of friends. I knew the general interests of most of my friends. I was friends with actors, yoga teachers, musicians, videographers, etc.   However, it was not until I left LA that I realized that some of my friends were far more influential or established than I knew at the time. This was because the nature of our relations focused on the personal day to day frustrations of living life. No matter where you are in life, you still get sad, angry, depressed, excited, and everything within the full spectrum of human experience. And this was our common language we had.

So while I knew intimate details about my friends, I never knew some superficial facts about their careers. Once I left LA and got into more contact via social media, I began to see their other endeavors, and learn that some of my friends were doing some amazing things all over the world. Also, having TV once again, I’ve started to see my friends in commercials all the time. Which is definitely a fun perk from living in Los Angeles.

Opportunities have come from those friendships as well. I won’t go into details, but I’ve certainly had the chance to do some exciting projects thanks to those relationships, which were cultivated with the correct priority first: Friendship.

 

Ask to Help, Not for Help

One lesson I’ve learned more recently came from a friend in Grand Forks. Whenever I run into him, one of the first or last things he asks me, “Is there anything I can do for you?” It’s a simple but effective question. And most of the time the answer is no. But sometimes there might be. Sometimes it’s just a matter of sitting down with someone over a coffee and picking their brain about how they did something so that you can learn how you might proceed. Or maybe it’s about connecting you to someone who can help you further in your path with certain resources (whether that’s mental, physical, financial, spiritual, etc).

But instead of focusing on you and what you need, ask others how you can help them. Just like being interested in others, this can lead to some interesting opportunities for collaboration, growth, and reaching goals.

I like to think in terms of social capital. When you help others, or invest your attention in their interests, you are depositing capital. Whenever you ask for help or seek the attention of others, you are withdrawing social capital from your imaginary account. Make deposits rather than withdrawals.

 

Quality Interactions, Not Quantity

A single evening spent talking with one person can be worth 10 superficial conversations. I once had a conversation with a theatre maker in the lobby after a show for nearly an hour. I didn’t know much about him before the conversation, and only got hints of his history during. But we had an amazing conversation about the art form, what constitutes good theatre in our opinion versus bad theatre. Only upon going home and looking up a little more information did I realize how accomplished of an artist he is.

That did not matter in the conversation. We were equals in that moment, inspiring each other through our own observations of what we experienced, and placing all the different lens of academic scholarship over the piece. It was probably a bit condescending if anyone was to walk into the middle of the conversation (which may explain why it was simply the two of us talking for so long in a crowded lobby), but we enjoyed ourselves immensely.

I would must rather have that singular interaction in an evening than to try and hit everyone in the room to have a brief conversation that ultimately does not inform either person about the hopes and interests of the other.

 

Making the Leap

The scariest part can always be the initial reaching out. Putting yourself out there is an extremely vulnerable act. One way to counter this is to enlist a friend who may know the crowd or a contact better, and to introduce you. This helps at least temporarily break the ice. But eventually with practice, it does get easier to simply reach out and say, “Hi, I’m…” and introduce yourself briefly, before asking the other person questions.

Sometimes you can reach out via social media or email. Ask for a coffee. This helps focus the conversation to two people. I have seldom been disappointed by approaching someone for a conversation. I may get no answer if it’s via social media. Or, in person I may simply not get a chance to approach someone because either they are too busy with other people or I get too busy with other conversations. Those are quality problems though. Whatever messages you may be telling yourself that lead to doubt, forget about. Remember that message you have in your back pocket? You know you’re valuable.

In Conclusion

I have apparently done something right in my networking. I find myself being approached for projects. People know who I am, and they send people my way who might have something interesting for me to help with. I have given multiple interviews with the media simply because I was helping on someone else’s big project. Sometimes you have to have to be patient. You’re never going to feel like you’re where you’re supposed to be, so just relax. You’re exactly in the right moment. You are heading in the right direction, so keep on traveling!

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Creating a Brand on Social Media

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How to Know What to Post

 By Jared Fladeland

Conduit Theatre

I enjoy being accessible online as a theatre artist, entrepreneur, and writer. My creative, business, and personal life at times can blur. Despite this, sometimes reality will smack me directly in the face in a “I posted something that offends important people in the community and now I have some bridges to repair!” kind of way. Sometimes I wonder, should I censor myself and post less? Should I throw caution to the wind and say, this is who I am and if people don’t like it, so be it? My experience has taught me that the answer lies somewhere in the middle, but having a good long look at myself is the best way to figure it out.

 

You Are Your Brand, Your Brand is You

No matter if you are an artist, a business owner, or an employee, you have a brand. When you think of a brand, you might think of some well-known companies and their slogans. Nike’s “Just Do it” or Apple’s “Think Different” immediately pop into mind. Who you are, and how others perceive you makes up your brand. A definition of brand: The core values associated with a product or business.

Particularly in the case of actors, you are the brand. People see you on stage, on film, or in a commercial, and you immediately have a brand. Whether it is conscious or not, you communicate to others a set of values. Whether you look like a biker, a goofy dad, or a stern lawyer, these are all types of brands that actors might possess. Some actors have a brand of being extremely versatile, but those brands are earned over a long period of time. In most cases in the entertainment industry, you only have a few seconds to communicate your brand. The quicker a performer realizes that, the sooner he or she can embrace and parlay that brand into bookings.

 

How Do I Make a Brand?

Creating a brand requires two exercises: Understanding what you hope your core values are, and understanding your audience’s perception of your core values. For example, if you want to be accepted as an honest, blue collar worker, but the average person on the street looks at you and sees someone who looks dishonest, who might be a CEO, then the message you want to communicate and the message you are communicating are diametrically opposed. Getting these two things in alignment is important.

If your inner values are more important, suddenly this opens up decisions you have to make: A new haircut, a different choice in wardrobe, the way you speak to others, etc. These are all options that can help bring into alignment what you want to communicate and the message people are actually receiving from you.

Once you’ve made those decisions about your core values, you have to live up to those values. If you are communicating one message, and then providing a contradictory message in other instances, your brand will become muddy, and people won’t know if they can trust you. They might wonder what you truly stand for. Or, in the case of a casting director or agent, they may have no idea how to cast you.

 

Having a Brand on Social Media

So how does your brand translate to social media? Once again, are you posting status updates, pictures, or sharing posts which seem to conflict with the image you want to convey? Technology connects people more than ever. If you are posting material which you wouldn’t want a future employer to see, you may need to reconsider your relationship to social media.

Remember my question I had for myself on whether I should censor myself on social media? Once I understood the type of brand I wanted to have, it became easier to understand what I wanted to share and post or what I decided to pass on sharing. For example, I have a general rule of thumb for what I share (this isn’t always perfect, either. I’m no saint!): If it’s cute, funny, or really inspiring I post it. I found I don’t particularly like negative, political posts, so I try not to engage those types of posts or re-share it. I want my social media platforms to be a place of positivity. I also try not to post exciting news until it’s confirmed. One thing about the performative art world, projects sometimes come to fruition or fall through as quickly as they came into the world. So I’m very selective about news that I share. Also I try to watch how much complaining I do. While I am generally a positive person in my day to day activities, I’m certainly prone to difficult moods.

A friend recently shared a beautiful blog post about honesty in blogs, and it made me re-examine my own relationship to what I share or not. The truth is, I will be very forthcoming about my struggles in certain circles. But I learned at times that being selective about who I share these experiences with is important. While I will elude to certain things publicly, some parts of my past are best kept in my inner circle.

Bringing all social media activity back to the understanding of brand as inner core values with perceived core values, it makes it much simpler to determine if I should post something or not. This allows my brand to be clear and concise as possible.

 

How do I fix mistakes on Social Media?

As I mentioned earlier, I certainly have found myself sticking my foot in my mouth online. It happens to everyone. Removing posts is a great fix. But even when an issue arises very publicly, the best solution is always to attempt to fix the problem privately. And even if the problem started online, I have found the quickest fix is to sit down over a cup of coffee and discuss the issue in person. So many misunderstandings occur over platforms where text is the primary mode of communication. When tone, body language, and lack of real-time response exists, it is so easy for intended meanings to be misinterpreted.

I once posted a complaint (my first mistake!) I had, which a number of supporters of both me and my business took issue with. I quickly realized that my complaint was taken personally by people I wasn’t aiming the complaint at. However, after further discussion, it really made me understand the complexity of messages, perception, and emotions. In the end, my complaint was even misguided. But through sitting down over coffee with some people, we came to realize that we had the same goal in mind, and were talking around it from different perspectives. And once we had that common framework, we had a fruitful discussion on how to solve the problem we were perceiving from different angles. It allowed us to be proactive, and engaged community members, using our respective platforms (mine being theatre and performance art) to work towards the same goal (making our community amazing).

The core values of my brand were definitely a part of that story. You have to know your brand. It is essential. Once you have created the brand you want (and it is in alignment with how people perceive you), making decisions become easy through that filter.

 

Follow Jared Fladeland on Instagram (@jfladeland or @conduittheatre), Facebook, and Twitter (@jaredfladeland and @conduit_theatre) for more content, updates, and news!

 

For Elin

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The footlights of the stage flickered, turning the space into a silent film screen. Sharing the stage with me was a Swedish actress. I raised a hand, showing it to be empty. I put my other hand on top of my palm, spun my hand a few times, lifted my hand away from my palm, to reveal an orange. I grabbed a knife from a nearby table, cut out a slice, and turned to the actress. She took a bite of the orange from my mind, her blue eyes sparkling in the lights. It was always a special moment when we performed this section of our melodrama piece, and I always look back on it with fond memories. Less than eighteen months later, the actress would be dead. Her name was Elin. We both attended Dell’arte International School of Physical Theatre in Blue Lake, CA (http://www.dellarte.com), and one day in October after we finished our year of studying together, I received an email from mutual classmates of ours from Sweden (Elin’s home country) with news of Elin’s passing.

I had never had a peer die before. I remember when I finished school, between being broke, in the middle of a divorce, and having a theatre gig starting immediately upon my return, I booked it out of the small town in northern California the day after our graduation ceremony. I did not say good bye personally to many people. I just left. I figured my classmates and I would talk again, perhaps work on projects in the future, come back for reunions, who knows? So when I heard the news, I was shocked, and felt a tremendous sense of guilt.

Pretty normal, really. But also, living back in North Dakota at that time, I felt so isolated. I was nowhere close to a classmate. The training at the school is particularly intense, and it can sometimes feel a bit strange trying to relate the experience to people who haven’t been there. But for alumni, no matter what year you attended, you can understand the journey the school puts you through. And I needed that connection desperately to no avail.

The school did have a memorial service, streamed online. This was a fantastic way to grieve from afar. Those of us who could not attend wrote down our memories and emailed them. A number of classmates managed to get to the school for the service, and I remember one of my best friends I made in my class, Brandon, reading my words at the podium set up. It was both wonderful to observe, and even more heartbreaking to not be physically present.

If I learned anything from the experience, it was to truly enjoy the moment. Enjoy people. You never know which moment will be your final moment with someone. We are fragile beings. We come and go into this world far too easily. Talk to each other. Be honest with each other. If I ask you, “how are you?”, please do not hide behind a wall of automated responses. If I ask, it is because I want to know.

Elin’s Facebook profile is gone, deleted. I can scour some mutual friends’ photo libraries for photos, but I’m mostly left with memories. That moment on the stage. The rehearsals as we struggled to create something meaningful, that we could be proud to perform along with our ensemble mate Camille. That moment I pulled an orange out of thin air, cut a slice, and watched her as she bit into it. I hope to never lose that memory. Wherever you are in the universe, Elin, thank you for giving me a wonderful moment.

A tale full of sound and fury

It was Shakespeare that first got me excited about the theatre.  I remember vividly a class field trip to see a touring production of Othello from the Guthrie Theatre.  The actor who played Iago was so charismatic and yet so evil.  He had you laughing in one moment and moaning in another with how vile his two-faced behavior could be.  Watching him on that stage, holding the audience in the palm of his hand, I thought to myself:  I want to do THAT! It was with excitement I saw the Classical Actors Ensemble's production of MacBeth this past weekend at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage, directed by Joseph Papke. 

The first impression of the production is that these are all solid actors. The age of the cast ranges from very young adult to seasoned veterans, but everyone is on par with talent.  They know to handle the text, they never shy away from the challenge of Shakespeare.  As a company, it is also evident that the cast has chemistry.  Any weak links are not made because of the actors, but more just the inevitable string of non-descript characters that populate the nobles and servants of the play. 

Another fun feature is a live band, performing covers of aptly chosen pop songs which fit the subject matter.  The singers were actors in the production who would come out to sing, sometimes solo or sometimes in tandem, to provide a brief interlude between acts. 

I also enjoyed the stage effects.  Whether it was shadow work to depict the goriest moments of battle, or the weird sisters' rituals, it allowed the imagination of the audience to soar.  The best effect of the night was the first appearance of Banquo's ghost, which definitely caught the audience by surprise and was just straight up awesome. 

Overall, MacBeth was very well-played.  The actor was extremely charismatic, was present with the audience, and seemed to enjoy himself as he became drunk with power.  His Lady MacBeth's descent into madness was also equally strong.  

My only complaint from their performances is that I felt the beginning the play lacked an element which could have strengthened the early choices to murder their way into power.  From my vantage point, both characters lacked an awareness, as they were performed, that these characters had ambitions to raise the political ladder.  This thirst for power is what sets both characters down their tragic spirals, but because the actors did not play this subtext, the decision to murder king Duncan and frame his children didn't quite make sense.  As the play went on, this issue began to work itself out.  

Banquo was particularly strong. His chemistry with MacBeth was strong, and his appearances as a specter were both creepy and fun.  

MacBeth's assassin, Seyton, does not say much in the second half of the play, but he is effective in carrying out MacBeth's plans.  The best scene in the show for me was the murder of Lady MacDuff and her child.  Both actors effectively made the audience laugh with their effective witty dialogue, and make the audience care about them enough in just a few short moments before Seyton arrives to murder them. 

My least favorite scene was the Porter's monologue.  It is actually one of my favorite parts of the play normally.  However the actor, though very inventive in his interpretation, and very physically committed to a series of mimed slapstick moments, suffers a little from trying too hard to make a naturally funny monologue more entertaining. 

The only other critique left to give is really the length of the play. It felt a little long, especially near the end when the pace should begin to pick up to the inevitable moment of confrontation between MacBeth and those set on fighting him to the death.  

The stage combat was effective, and hit the right amount of action for me, with some fun moments. 

If you love Shakespeare, I recommend this company to anyone in the Twin Cities.  They are a company that does good work, highly professional in their presentation, and I will be seeing their production of Julius Caesar later this week.  Both shows are still running, and ticket prices are on a sliding scale starting at $15. 

https://www.facebook.com/events/1552178685081831/

Response to Failure

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How I responded to the worst week of my life

There I stood in front of the entire faculty and student body of Dell’arte Internatonal School of Physical Theatre, wearing a red dress, a black curly wig, and listening to the instructor saying, “you are a disgrace to the student body, the faculty, and anyone who has ever gone through the school.” Oh, and less than a week earlier, my wife told me she had her mind set on getting a divorce.

It was a Friday afternoon, during what was called a performance lab (or p-lab for short). Every week at the school we were given an assignment on Monday to get into small groups and create a new piece of theatre (typically 5-10 minutes) to be performed and critiqued by the entire school. It was also the unit where we studied clown.

For context, what the instructor had said wasn’t directed at me, though it was directed near me. And because I wasn’t wearing my glasses or contacts, I thought the instructor was talking to me. If it sounds incredibly harsh, it was harsh, but par for the course in clown. The entire process of the school year was like being squeezed a little harder each week, and it was during clown that the fist really started to bear down tight. I honestly don’t remember much about the week of this performance lab. I was in a bit of a traumatized haze from the news from my (soon to be ex) wife. Many of my classmates knew the news, but I hadn’t told any of the teachers. I know I missed many of the classes that week, only slept a few hours total over the course of the week, and was present only in body for the rehearsals with my group for the performance lab.

Our performance was a trainwreck. The concept was weak, the play between actors driven more out of fear of being yelled at than by any genuine delight, there were no comedic bits, no interaction with the audience, and for some reason my clown character that week was a weird cross between Julia Childs and Groucho Marx. It was a superficial character, with superficial motivation. To be honest it was a character “thrown” onto me by my peers that week as I continued the search for what a “clown” is. Within thirty seconds of the piece, the head instructor interrupted the piece to say we better finish what we are doing in one minute. It only got worse from there. He stopped us quickly, and began the critique (which is where I found myself at the beginning of this story).

There were many difficult moments throughout the year. Many victories, and many failures. By this point in the school year (approximately three-fourths of the way through the year), I had compartmentalized most performance labs. No matter how successful or disastrous a p-lab, I had learned to commiserate or celebrate next door at the local brewery’s happy hour (which just happened to coincide with the end of the performance lab), learn the lessons to be learned, and move on. But this particular week, with the state of my life, I was the lowest I had ever felt in my life. When people ask me what the worst moment in my life was, it’s a close battle between that day and week, or a moment early in my sobriety (but that’s a topic for another day).

 

So what was my response to failure?

 

Another teacher was remodeling his house, and offered food and beer to anyone willing to help him with demolition after the performance lab. I had, two years earlier, helped my in-laws with the demolition of their home when they were remodeling. I felt like if I didn’t do something productive immediately, I was not going to be in a good state for the rest of the evening (or the weekend for that matter).

So I went and destroyed walls. My teacher did not know about my personal circumstances at that point, and I didn’t want to talk about it. Instead, we talked about clown. And we tore out sheet rock. When we finished, he invited me to have dinner with him and his family (his wife was also an instructor), eating home-made pizza. I said sure, since it would probably be a better nutritional choice than whatever I may have eaten at that point. And since I was the only one who showed up to help, he split a generous amount of beers with me to take after the meal.

At the risk of sounding overdramatic, that experience probably saved my life. Or at least stopped me from putting myself at risk for very serious harm.

 

The next day, I arrived at the studio to work. Particularly during clown, students were working every spare moment to find a successful clown. At the time, I couldn’t tell you what that meant. Even today, six years later, I have my own little theories and ideas about what a successful clown might be, and I could quote you clown teachers, or research articles. But in practice, a clown doesn’t live on stage purely based on intelligent phrases. The typical Saturday during clown involved people running back and forth from the costume area to the studio, trying different combinations of goofy clothing, weird mannerisms, and sometimes ridiculous premises.

In such a state as I was, I was starting just where I was: on the ground. I sat down on a rehearsal block, in front of a mirror, and I just looked at myself. To tell you the truth, I was tired. Physically, emotionally, spiritually exhausted. I didn’t think about what type of clown I wanted to try to manifest next. I wasn’t rolling through clever gimmicks. I just tried to be empty of all that. Chaos surrounded me. People were deep in thought, coming up with comedic bits as their new personages. And I just couldn’t do it anymore.

I think something snapped. Or perhaps I finally understood something my teacher had said during the clown unit. A story he told about a student from many years ago who wanted desperately to be funny. And when the teacher did something to emphasize a part of the student’s body, the class laughed, and the student left the room, vowing to never do that again (it was something the student was self-conscious about). Again, without THINKING about this, I FELT this story. As if something divine was moving me, I stood up, walked to the costume storage area, found a pair of Zubaz pants, some body pillows (normally used to make someone look fat around the mid section), and after putting on the pants, I stuffed them with the pillows, making my pants appear to be filled with massive tree trunk legs (which didn’t take much effort since I’ve always been well-known for having large legs). I happened to be wearing a long sleeve blue stripped shirt, and the pattern of the clothing made me happy. I walked into the studio, someone looked at me, laughed, and said, “hold on, you have to try this on”, and he picked up a helmet that wasn’t quite a football helmet, and not quite a batting helmet for baseball, but it was like a weird love child of the two. I put it on, and immediately, when I looked in the mirror at my goofy proportions, it felt right.

Another classmate saw me and immediately said, “you look like a Bradley!” As I walked around, I began to act as a needy football player. Organically, a lazzi developed that whenever I was with someone, I would refer to them as my coach, and I was highly dependent upon their commands to know what to do. Something just worked. Another lazzi developed organically in play, that anytime someone wanted to distract me, they would knock on the top of my helmet, causing me to pause, stand at attention and ask earnestly, “Hello?”, waiting for a response from the unknown knocker.

A bit I had created during our study of vaudeville, where I performed in an opera as the musician, playing both an acoustic guitar and an old beat up baritone horn (sometimes simultaneously), allowed for a virtuosic moment to counter my seemingly helpless natural state.

Something worked with that character in that moment. Bradley was an exaggerated embodiment of who I was, particularly in that moment of my life: a helpless oaf, desperately in need of someone to tell him what to do, easily distracted, with huge legs, and quietly can provide a lot of talent behind two opera divas.

Post-Dell’arte, Bradley was no more. He died, something just didn’t work about him. But the lessons learned abound.

I was at rock bottom in that particular moment in that performance lab. And instead of pushing harder, I relaxed and took it easy. I became meditative. I stopped trying to make something successful. I allowed myself to be. And I followed my heart for guidance. Let things build organically. And found success in the process.

It wasn't a failure, it was the beginning of success

I had a conversation with someone recently about that moment, and they reminded me, “That moment wasn’t a failure.” And they’re right. It felt like major failure at the time. Failure as a student. As a performer. As a husband. But that’s only because I didn’t know what the future had in store for me. The truth is, the adventure I have been on since has been incredible. Rock bottom only led to experiences far greater than I ever dreamed for myself. The truth is, I easily have a tendency to box myself into a very small, “achievable” goal, and deny myself the possibility that ANYTHING is possible. But I have to give myself permission to dream. I have to give myself permission to not know how. I have to give myself permission to take moments as they come, and allow life to unfold. I have to say “Yes! And…”, a popular rule for improvisation.

Today’s failure is not failure. It simply returning to the ground, to firmly place your feet down, as you prepare to leap into the great wide open.

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Photo: Nine18 Photography

5 Tips for Starting a Business

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Since the decision to embark on the journey of having a theatre company, I decided early on that I had to leap into an understanding of business, and building a company.  It is my ultimate goal to build a vision with a structure so that artists come and work under the Conduit umbrella to create, curate, and collaborate. The goal always is to invent and re-invent new ways of connecting people together, using theatrical forms.

This is the boat upon which I row down a river.

I've directed plays.  I've written/devised new work.  I've acted.  I've helped in the marketing and execution of work.  What I lacked when I started this journey was the knowledge and experience of building a company.  So I set out to learn as much as I can wherever I can.

And I've boiled down 5 themes which seem to come up over and over again.

1. Persistence.  The journey is long sometimes.  Most successful endeavors take years to accomplish.  Be ready to walk the thousand miles, to put in 10,000 hours.  The journey is worth it, but only if you have:

2.  Vision.  See the future.  See the possibilities.  See what no one else has yet to see.  And then have the fortitude to make it a reality.  How?

3.  Surround yourself with the best talent.  Find the people who push you.  The people you can push back.  It is within that fire that the vision becomes refined and stronger.  And in order to do that, you have to

4.  Focus.  You can't do it all right now.  Once you have a team of people, create a list of all the things you want to accomplish that fit into that vision.  Then narrow it down to the top 10.  Then the top two or three.  And focus on just doing those things incredibly well.

5.  Continue to learn.  You aren't going to know everything.  But you will learn.  Everything new experience is a teachable moment.  Someday you might find yourself in the room as the experienced veteran.  And yet there will still be more to learn.  Keep the mind of a beginner, always eager to explore and study and be curious.