I was in my twenties, doggedly pursuing my dream of being a professional actress in New York City. Auditions—and rejections—were challenging and discouraging. To fuel my bruised creative spirit, I took supportive acting classes; and I soaked in every piece of theater I could afford to see on my limited budget.
It was so innovative, so viscerally stirring to watch.
That’s how I found myself in the basement of a small church in downtown Manhattan, stunned and spellbound by an explosive production of a play called Cinderella/Cendrillon. The production, based on Massenet’s opera, Cendrillon, combined elements of opera, dance, and theater in ways that both twisted and deepened the standard Cinderella story. It was so innovative, so viscerally stirring to watch, hear and experience, that my soul burst instantly into extreme aliveness. As I recall, the character of Cinderella was split in two: Lucette, ash-smeared and cringing, and Cendrillon, the confident beauty at the ball. I still remember the awe I felt watching the actress playing Lucette brilliantly unspool a long, disjointed, emotionally unraveled monologue in English while the opera singer playing Cendrillon trilled an aria in French and dancers rocketed around the stage. I was so transfixed, that when the play was over, I could barely get out of my seat (or out of my head) to re-enter the “real world”.
The experience made me certain about four things:
- I would remember this play for the rest of my life.
- I wanted to be in plays like this and have that kind of soul-stirring impact on others.
- Anne Bogart, the director of the play, was a creative genius.
- I absolutely had to work with Anne Bogart. Because it was this kind of bold, inspiring, fiercely creative person—and this kind of bold, inspiring, fiercely creative production—that made me want to forge ahead and light up the world with my own unique flame.
Many years later I would have the honor and privilege of being directed by Ms. Bogart in a production of Claire Booth Luce’s The Women at San Diego Repertory Theater. As I told her in my initial audition, “I would crawl naked, on my knees, through broken glass, through the Sahara desert to work with you.” She laughed, and then she cast me.
Anne was, in person, everything I had hoped she might be: Challenging, creative, wryly funny, nudging out the best in me. The production we created was provocative, highly stylized, and unmistakably marked by Anne’s unique approach. Like Cinderella/Cendrillon, it raised eyebrows, tickled souls, and broke barriers. People either loved it or hated it, which was perfectly fine with Anne, who said “I want the plays I direct to make audiences feel strongly one way or the other. Being in the middle doesn’t interest me.” I understood then, as I do now, that Anne’s attitude displayed not only a strong belief in her artistic vision, but courage. Because it takes courage to put yourself fully out into the world, sharing your voice or perspective without hesitation, knowing that others might not like it, accept it, or approve of it.
People like Anne make me want to take the stage with everything I’ve got.
It’s people like Anne Bogart—who leap fully and unapologetically into their lives, intent on realizing their potential and maximizing their impact—who make me want to live my own life to the fullest. They—and the provocative, unique work they put forth in theatrical, corporate, or entrepreneurial arenas—make me want to take the stage with everything I’ve got. Not only that, their willingness to model an active, fully realized presence in the world makes me strive to model that myself—for my own fulfillment, and for the clients who come to me for support in speaking and leading with greater impact on public platforms.
We can play the small, tepid, beige version of life; or we can leap into life.
As women, as people, we can choose to play small and potentially live a tepid, beige version of who we are meant to be; or we can choose to leap into life, intent on showing and sharing the full extent of our imagination, creativity, intelligence and talents. How are you choosing to show up in your life and work? What kind of influence and impact do you want to have? Whether you’re a theater director, a marketing executive, a dentist or the CEO of a startup, there’s always someone watching and listening. The choices you make, the words you speak, and the actions you take can deeply impact others—whether or not you intend them to. And if you choose to mute, dilute, or refrain from sharing your big ideas, your perspective, or your unique talents, you risk not serving and supporting the people who need exactly what you have to offer.
So, take the stage and leap without hesitation or apology into your life and work. Be the kind of person—like Anne Bogart—who startles and stirs others into feeling, action, and aliveness by showing up as who you really are and living your life fully. Use your words, your gifts, and your talents to change your world.