Well - over the course of ten years - after three administrative theatre internships, countless readings and workshops of new plays (plus a musical or two), a few stints as a Consulting Producer a little in over their head, Executive Producing a short film, acting in amazing plays and TV shows etc....I was let go from a theatre production I was acting in and forcibly shifted into working on something else: myself. As I excavated the years of my life as a young person in New York hustling their way to the most exciting and life-changing rooms Off-Broadway and on television, one piece of advice I was given from someone in the industry stood out the clearest: find the joy again. I had barely taken into account how burnt-out I was yet it was being perceived as unhappiness. And subconsciously, it probably was. I got blissfully and gratefully comfortable with being seen as a working actor - with a few day jobs scattered in between - but I hadn't found a clear outlet for my other theatre-making skills. Since I didn't want to do anything else and I couldn't see myself in another field I didn't know how I was going to find joy within the hustle. In hindsight, I wish someone had given me the tools or the insight to be able to simultaneously work on and maintain my mental health within the entertainment industry while creating impactful work with diverse artists for intersectional communities.
As I began to reflect on how I wanted to engage in this business going forward, I also questioned if there were ways in which I had showed up in various rehearsal processes that didn't always serve the piece and/or the playwright holistically. After talking to past collaborators, I realized that my penchant for engaging in self-critique and questioning my collaborators for clarity, plus my subconscious compulsion to do a "good" acting job (which had been rewarded with awards I didn't even know I was eligible for) was an amalgamated achilles heel that led to my firing. Thankfully I had so much love, support, and another acting job the day after I had been let go, but I knew that this was the beginning of a new chapter in my life.
It was tough medicine to swallow - albeit medicine that I sought out - but the collectively sourced answers to my reflective questions helped me understand that due to a combination of unhealthy perfectionism on my part and lack of access to mediation that would allow for healthy communication in the rehearsal room, I was being perceived as difficult. Thankfully, this realization became the major catalyst that helped me begin to see where my skills - and the skills of many young artists - could be put to use while not on contract. But then I zoomed out from myself for a second and also began to wonder: How does a lack of intentionality coupled with systemic barriers to affordability and accessibility effect how many confront their own relationship to the theater? And how do we bring people together through storytelling if we can't communicate our wants and needs during the process in a healthy way?
Cut to: AYE DEFY . The project that fills me up with equal parts fear and excitement. Purpose and joy. With the help of an ever-growing team of patient, intellectually stimulating, activists and artists, I am using my multi-hyphenate theatre skills as an Actor, Director, Producer and Dramaturg - and a bit of that Human Resources minor - to create space for artists to shine at every stage of their artistic process. AYE DEFY is a consulting and marketing organization that honors the artistic journey from beginning to "end".
I am building and creating programs that will shift the emotional, educational, and communal culture of the entertainment industry and I need your help! For those of you that have already supported, I am in awe and forever indebted to you for your belief in me as I continued to deepen and clarify the purpose, mission, and goals of this company. The expectation when faced with loss or a failure of some kind is to crumble and shrink in shame. But in this beautifully bountiful life I’ve been gifted, I instead choose to learn the lesson(s), feel the growing pains, and offer solutions for how to show up better next time.
AYE: Yes DEFY: Expectations
AYE DEFY partners with individuals and institutions to empower multi-hyphenate artists with tools to tell their stories [Authentically] for maximum [Visibility] within their desired demographic in a way that aligns with the overall [Purpose] and mission of their art.
So why do I need your donations? Well for starters... AYE DEFY is a startup with a big mission ! But below are the programs on the docket:
Intentional & Intersectional Marketing: Inspired by Marcia Pendleton of Walk Tall Girl Productions , Drew Shade of Broadway Black , Chi-Chi Anyanwu of the Black Theatre Network and countless others, we aim to build relationships with the Literary Managers, Resident Dramaturgs, and Marketing Directors of major Off-Broadway Institutions to create marketing plans (in addition to discount codes) in advance of season announcements that not only center the underlying themes and ideals of the plays they are producing, but also center the mission and intention of the Playwright. We will reach out to demographics that lie beyond their traditionally targeted audiences, affinity groups, and network of industry contacts. We will also provide this service for individual theatre-makers, collectives, and theatre companies.
Community Building: In collaboration with our Audience Engagement Curator, AYE DEFY will coordinate theatrical experiences for groups wishing to fellowship before and/or after shows to discuss and unpack in the form of talkbacks, Happy Hours, backstage tours etc. With our network of 1000+ Black, Queer, Latinx, Asian-American, MENA supporters, we will build on programs like Just Inked at Signature Theatre or LincTix Young Patrons nights at Lincoln Center, to make viewing theatre a communal experience that doesn’t just end once the show is over.
Artistic Advocacy: There are many stories of artists being a part of wonderfully acclaimed productions but when you get the real "tea", said productions are the exact opposite of what anyone would deem a safe or healthy process. I realized almost too late that although I had steady work over the years, no one felt comfortable communicating the ways in which I was not serving the process productively. Without proper mediation - or even a simple exit interview - from someone not directly involved in these shows, there is usually no unbiased party to discuss abuses and/or discrimination despite the EDI and sexual harassment paperwork that is mildly discussed at the beginning of a contract. We will create a training program using the tools of Positive Psychology taught at The Flourishing Center , community agreements, and EDI language to train EMC and AEA members to be deputies of shows as a means of income while not on contract if they choose not to go on unemployment.
Last but not least,
Talk the Walk: A digital series that highlights how artists maintain a vibrant artistic life by stepping outside of the proverbial box and pursuing their multi-hyphenate dreams! #PursueYourHyphens
Your Donations will directly support paying for: Graphic Designer ($700), Co-Working Space at The Artist's Co-op ($300), Subsidizing the cost of the Certificate Program at The Flourishing Center (~$6,000), Website Maintenance, Stipends for assistants and creatives making the Digital Series and more!
Thank you for listening, thank you for helping shift the culture, and thank you for your support!
Big love and a big Thank you to those who have already supported! Check out our supporters HERE on our website.
Photo Credit: Jenny Anderson
- Nicole Rousseau
- Angie Shearer
- Tamar Cerafici
- Katherine M
- Maria Campanile
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