What is your biggest motivator as an artist? What is your biggest fear?
I work on a lot of different kinds of projects, but for the projects that I initiate, what tends to happen is that I get hooked on some thing I can’t quite wrap my brain around, some issue, some trouble, something that I gotta deal with. It rattles around in my mind for a while, and eventually, if it feels like something that’s good for the devising form that I engage with, I go for it. I gather a bunch of folks and ask them to join me in wrestling with the aforementioned thing. My rehearsal room is a place of processing, like a creative think tank, and so we battle with it, dissecting, analyzing, playing with it, trying to see and feel all of its complexities, and then we try to make it into theater. I get motivated by knowing that my way of making art is very simply the way I process my world: collectively, physically, artistically.
There are other motivators, of course. I get motivated by amazing artists, and seeing their work makes me want to make my own. I get motivated by potential—it’s really so, so seductive, the possibility of what something could be. I get motivated by ambition—I’ve worked really hard in my life and want my work to succeed and be seen. I get motivated by impossible things—I like when projects feel like they are way too big or too hard to make happen.
What do I fear? Time, or rather, running out of it. I’m always nervous that there isn’t enough time to properly do a thing, and deadlines make me crazy, and every once in a while, I get a moment to breathe and look around at my life, and it makes me sad that so much time in my life has passed already. It’s a little melancholic, but true.
How did you become an artist? Is there a particular experience that drove you to this choice?
I was one of those high school theater nerds, but my high school (an all-boys Catholic school in Miami) didn’t have musicals. We did speech and debate, and we did unusual plays, including experimental plays from New York’s downtown era of the 60s. (Who does that when they’re 16 years old?) At some point, I got hooked—or maybe addicted—to theater. Something just made sense, or made me really happy. I liked other theater nerds, I liked my friends who were doing it, I liked pretending. There was a lot of affirmation, it was something I was good at, but it was also so, so scary. There was something super thrilling about being scared out of my mind and then getting on a stage and just doing it. The same things carried on as I got to college.
I think I became a professional theater artist because of two things: stubbornness and luck. I was told by the world that it was foolish to become a theater artist, that there was no money and no pathway to a good life, and I just didn’t believe it. And I wanted it, and I’m stubborn. So I went for it. At that time in my life I also had a lot of luck. I caught a few breaks that encouraged me forward, including getting into grad school just a couple of years after college. It felt like things were aligning for me to enter a life in the arts, and so I followed.