Did that come first, or just you being an artist to that come first?
Being an artist came first and, um, feeling a little lost came before passion and purpose intersected.
So when did you first realize that you were an artist?
I was super little, my first memories are of creating things. I used to write songs when I was three or four and I'd write both the lyric and the melody, and then I would go out and, stage them. And I remember, you know, the neighbors probably thought I was a little weirdo because I had choreography, you know, going down the street on it was always sort of by myself. And, you know, I think part of that is just because even though, I'm open to the world and my work in theater keeps me really engaged and I love people at the heart of it, I am an introvert. And so I have I got older, I could reach out a little bit better to collaborate. But instead, instead of having like another neighborhood kid to collaborate when I was very young, I just made one up. I made up in imaginary friend. Then we would create songs and dances and plays and stories, and that just never went away. It continued to grow. As I grew, the imaginary friend went away.
Well, we need to bring. I think we all need to bring our imaginary friends back.
Mine was awesome.
Did she have a name or was it a boy or girl?
It was a girl. Her name was Boo Boo.
Yes, and she had big freckles and glasses and blonde hair, and she loved all of my ideas. Thank you, Boo Boo. That's to this day any time I feel a little bit of self doubt, I think about Boo Boo. And I remind myself that that I created Boo Boo and she is me.
I love it. I love it. I feel inspired to draw a Boo Boo Pincurl Girl for you.
That would be amazing.
So back to being that artist. How did you decide that? Or give yourself permission that you could be an artist as an adult or grow up to be do art instead of getting the traditional 9 to 5 job?
It happens sort of accidentally. I had a really significant experience in college. I was attending UNL as a theater major and honestly, really struggling. I, was raised in a rual community and sort of ill prepared for the culture shock in coming to a large university at the time and I would say, probably pretty depressed, well, just feeling lonely and out of sorts.
And, I was working on this degree but constantly hearing from the world around me that this isn't a legitimate pursuit. What are you gonna do with this? And that's not any one person's fault Or that isn't a message I was hearing from any one person. That was the culture of then, and it's still somewhat the culture of now. You know, I think it's a little bit better, but at the time it was like, What are you gonna do with this? And so I felt myself at the time, even self sabotaging a little bit. And I enrolled in a playwriting class one semester that was taught by the extraordinary Doctor Thais Miller, who was also the department chair at the now Johnny Carson School of Theater and Film. And I took this playwriting class, and we had an assignment to try to write a scene, and I had never written a play before, and I remember going home and just putting every ugly thought into this scripts and kind of thinking, you know, maybe this is it, maybe I will fail so badly at us that they have to kick me out of college. And I could go live with Mom and Dad and they can make all the rules for me forever. And I can hide under a pillow and you know it.
This'll really kind of a challenging time for me. And so the scene ended up when I reread it. It had a lot of kind of ugly stuff in it, but it was it read as comedy. It was really, really funny. And so I went back to class and all of my classmates read through their scenes and I was last and I felt myself get that tight stomach nervousness when all of the sudden you kind of have to own what you've done. You know? I'm thinking we're gonna read this and it's so dark and it's so terrible and it's so weird. And I'm showing the world my insides right now. Yeah, and we read the thing and Dr. Miller looked at me and he said, "that is really good."
And I was shocked. None had said to me ever that the most complicated stuff going inside of me was really good. It's almost visual to me I felt a shift about everything like maybe everything about me that I was trying to hide or minimize or cover up was exactly the part of me that I actually needed to let out into the sun.
And so I started to change the way I worked on things. I started to change the way I shared. I finished the play and it was produced at UNL the following semester. So I got busy in in terms of starting to get stuff done, I don't know, it just it just occurred to me almost like a switch one day that instead of trying to be something I'm not, if I can allow myself to be vulnerable and let people see what's really going on inside that I felt at home, I felt like I was on a track to somewhere and that it was okay if I didn't know where that lead because it felt good instead of bad. And so I learned to trust that process.
That's the magic that you have inside of you that lets you produce all these wonderful shows and plays and programs. And that's that's so good that you had that experience of putting it all out there and showing your insides. But then realizing that that that was that was the good stuff.
Thank you for saying that that is so kind. And, you know, I still have, even when I still sometimes have doubts about that. I've started to understand because so much of that goes into my playwriting work. That there are children and adults in my audience is that that's the part they understand. That's the part where they see themselves. And, um so that's where that purpose kicks in, right to making sure that that there's something happening that's accessible to people, that that shows the more complicated parts of life.
Because if we can make space for those things and talk about them and work those things out and acknowledge them, then we can have really healthy, happy lives. But we gotta look at that stuff first, so yeah, this is a hard question.
But like, how would someone start doing that? I mean, who, as you know, is youngest, 13, 12, even 9 years old. As a female, I feel like we're trained by society or I'm not sure what to downplay ourselves and to not show those insides in that magic because it might be wrong. Do you have any advice of just, like, a little baby steps that people can try just showing themselves just a little bit as they grow up?
Sure, it is a difficult question, but what I go to first is, this you own your magic. It belongs to you first. And so what I would encourage anyone to do as a baby step is starting to let that magic out in a safe place without editing it. And what I mean by that is you know, I can go quickly to writing because I'm a writer. Get out a piece of paper. Put down what ever's in your mind and on your heart. Don't edit it. Don't worry about spelling punctuation. Just get it out there. And once it's on the paper, it exists. And that doesn't mean that you have to share it with the world tomorrow. But it means that when you meet the person that you can share it with your gonna know who that is. Um, the same is true of dance. The same is true of visual art.
The same is true of anything that you might love if you can get comfortable with being your authentic self when you're alone, if you can catch your thoughts when you're having them, if you can hear yourself say, Oh, this might be kind of weird I'm not sure I know. But then also remind yourself. But no one's looking right now. I I own this so I can decide how I share it. You know, those are those are some great baby steps to first getting comfortable with yourself, something that also helps me.
And what helps me today is lowering my status, and what I mean by that is I have the opportunity to work along so many students of all ages. And I know that if I want to create a safe space with fifth graders, if I could be dorkier, then they're afraid they might be right. It's fair game, all right, the working with younger people. You know, if you're a 12 year old girl and you have an idea, maybe you find the six or seven year olds in your neighborhood and you share your idea because younger people or people who are learning often look to those of us who have things to share to, kind of know what's okay or how to be.
So just turning it into energy, of making other people comfortable to buy, sort of saying, Hey, it's okay for Hannah, Wacky. It's okay if this isn't cool and just a little secret. And I know you know this, Jen, but honestly, whatever doesn't seem cool. The older you get, that's what's cool, huh? All the nerdy stuff is super cool, you know, just just getting comfortable with the idea that you can create and you can decide who sees it and who doesn't. And I think that's enough of a first step.
Yeah, it really is. And this is a good opportunity for us right now, being having life slow down a little bit for ourselves and being able to create by ourselves and not having to show people if we're not ready to show people. But it just leads us to opportunities for artists. Whether they're dancers are painters or drawers are animators or playwrights or writers or songwriters. There's a lot of opportunity and some more time opening up to us to create.
That's absolutely right. And I think the key is enjoy that time without pressure. You know, yes, I'm a playwright, and I probably won't write a play during this break just because I'm enjoying being home with my kids. We're dealing with big changes in the world and kind of getting used to what that's like. I'm stepping outside every day and making sure that I breathe in fresh air, and I don't always take the time to do that. But I'm stopping, and I'm doodling when I'm thinking about something or I'm, you know, quick writing a short poem after a meeting that I've had, you know, at my dining room table on Zoom.
So just allowing yourself the space to be creative without saying I have to do this and this and this and this I think if we can all trust that process a little bit, there will be a great deal of creative content that comes from this time, and frankly, it can be, um, it can be a little bit of not a literal lifesaver, maybe, but a life saver, because we do have time on our hands, and it just feels good to get the brain working and the body working.
And, this is a great time to take some creative risks in trying new things at home who loved that. I'm I have to admit, I'm guilty of working quite a bit, and I think that you make a really good point, which I've heard deep down in my heart by saying that you don't have to use this time to create, but, you know, using this time to give yourself space, carry around a notebook, got down ideas. But relax, go outside, be with your family, cook new things, trying new things that does lead to inspiration later on as well.
I agree. I tend to think that those of us and I do believe everyone has creativity inside of them. But those of us that strongly identify as being creative or artists we never stopped creating we're always making art. So for me, I may be writing a play right now, but that doesn't mean I'll be at the computer right now. Maybe in six months I'll be at the computer and the life that I'm living right now will go on to the page. Or maybe what you're experiencing right now will turn into a series of new paintings, right?
At times, we don't know what that's going to be, but of course, we are creating all the time. It's letting go of, of the deadlines of the it has to look or sound or feel this way and just trusting, trusting ourselves and trusting the process a little bit to say, "Wow, this is a really dynamic time to be alive, and there's gonna be a lot of rich stuff that that comes out of this time whenever it comes."
I love that ..."this is a dynamic time." That's great.
I've tried to start using that because there are so many negative words being thrown out there, and I understand that we're dealing with serious issues with this virus and that there are some scary things and scary thoughts that come to the surface. But it's also truly a very dynamic time. There are highs and lows and wonderful things to draw from this time and um, changes that will happen to our world, that that may lead to a better future, I saw on the news that because there's not a lot of, um, stuff happening with, like the canals in Venice, that the water is cleared up. Then you can see fish. You know, where there's some interesting things happening in the world that might teach us how to build a better world in the future because of this, this sort of challenging event.
So, I'm I'm trying to hold onto the silver lining because I think I think this will make us better and stronger in the end.
Yeah, I love that about you and which is one of the reasons I really was excited to talk to you today. I really do believe that that the power is within us to shape this in the way that makes us feel optimistic and better instead of living. And the fear that you see quite a bit on the news and stuff like that. And I've even had my own transformation of that fear of going down into that fear and then releasing it, knowing that it wasn't helping you at all and looking for those positives and just enjoying myself and and seeing those opportunities that this is providing.
Yeah, I know it's a new time for all of us. But it just really helps yourself, your mental state, I think, to look for opportunities and stay positive instead of going down. That your path.
I really appreciate that. Yeah, I feel similarly. And the thing is too, you know, this won't last forever. And as artists were sometimes overlooked, people don't always understand that artists generally are also very practical about making things work and getting things done and problem solving. And this is a great time to sharpen up those wonderful practical skills as artists. Because if you have that, plus the creativity plus the innovation, it just makes anything possible.
You know, if you can stay calm, cool and collected and take the best possible care of yourself during a global pandemic, you can probably also produce your own show. Yeah, you know, so all of this is just contributing to the larger toolbox of who we're all becoming and what's possible.
Yep. Owning our power and using it and staying calm and yeah, it'll definitely definitely be with us once this is past us and in the rear view mirror.