My Professionals Week Surprise

June 12, 2014 / By Elena Heyman, Fall Directing Fellow


During my application process for the Drama League Directors Project, Professionals Week sounded really incredible. One of my biggest challenges as a director is feeling like an outsider. I've been in NYC for less than two years, and I moved here without knowing many people in the industry. So I thought, "Wow. A week when someone explains how things work. Thank God." 

The week was every bit as awesome (and clarifying) as I hoped - I met people, I learned things. But something else unexpected happened. I rediscovered my gut impulse to create.  This came as a surprise because I didn't realize I lost it. At some point in the over saturated New York theatre scene, I think a part of me looked around and thought, "Well, it seems like other people have the artistic stuff covered." I became so focused on developing a career that I didn't allow myself to notice the real artist in me had taken a step back.

Throughout the week, I met with Artistic Directors, Directors, Producers, Publicists and I experienced an outpouring of generosity. I expected to hear the types of speeches I've heard a million times before: "Maybe one of you will make it… if you're lucky…" But that's not at all what they said. 

People wanted to know who I was and what I did. They encouraged me to create work and engaged me in rigorous artistic dialogue as an equal. They took the time to make an authentic connection with me. I was so surprised that I frequently joked, "Please stop being so nice to me. You're making me uncomfortable." 

In that process, I felt my spirit expand. My ideas were easier to talk about. I felt fired up and ready to create. I reconnected to my heart and my own vulnerability. I once again had something to give to my work.

Now as I write, a part of me is screaming, "Hold on! You need to be tough to make it in this industry." I still agree that's true. But for the past few years, I've prioritized the importance of having a "thick skin" over the importance of deep, supportive, artistic relationships. I am confronted with the reality that both are necessary. 

In upcoming projects, I know I will still encounter mean people. I know conflict is a necessary and healthy part of creation. But in difficult situations, instead of receding from people, I will reach out. Supportive community is a necessary ingredient in art. I am deeply grateful for this opportunity to build relationships within the Drama League community.

Pictured above: I just returned from an intensive workshop with MICHA (The Michael Chekhov Association). Their work, like The Drama League, fosters deep, supportive community for artists.