You need to work with creatives who are not only just talented but also good people. There is no more room for the toxic types that make the process harmful. Those people impact the overall success of production in ways that we cannot see until afterward. I was on an off-broadway production that had a toxic stage manager who eventually was fired when we moved locations. He has an excellent resume but his attitude and history finally caught up to him. His demeanor affected the attitude of all the artists working which I believe impacted the opening night. That’s why it is vital to build a list of trusted collaborators.

As a part of our series about creating a successful career in theatre, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Dakota Silvey.

Dakota Silvey is a playwright, EMT, wildland firefighter, and USAF veteran. He recently won the 15 Minutes of Frame 1 Act Festival at the Gene Frankel. His 1 Act, INTERMISSION PLAY, received second place in the VetRep 1 Act Script Competition and will be making its premiere in their upcoming season. His full-length, WILDFIRE was selected as Semi-Finalist in Adam Driver’s AITAF Bridge Award competition (head judge Paula Vogel) He is a member of the Cut Edge Collective’s ’24 Playwriting cohort and he is pursuing an M.F.A. in Playwriting at the Actor’s Studio Drama School.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I was born in California and moved often during my upbringing. I graduated high school in Idaho. My father is a forester for the U.S. Forest Service and my mother is a travel nurse who specializes in pediatric care. I attribute my love of nature and my desire to help others to the great role models I had growing up. I believe my time living in different regions gave me a lot of exposure to the US and has fed a lifelong passion travel.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I always knew I wanted to be a writer. The only question was the medium, but it wasn’t until joining theatre class for a girl that I considered playwriting to be a possibility. Soon after my feelings for the girl died out, I sparked a new love for theatre. I began stage managing all the school productions, building sets, hanging lights, and reading plays. During my senior year, we were told by our wonderful theatre teacher, Christine Hansen, to write a children’s play. I enjoyed writing dialogue so much that I showed up to class with 3 or 4 plays. We traveled to all the elementary schools in the city and performed the plays, each of us working in true traditional touring fashion as both technicians and performers. I was so delighted by the reaction from these excited children that I started to envision a life in the theatre. I realized that doing that for the rest of my life could be immensely fulfilling. During my senior year of high school in Idaho a new graduation requirement was instituted. Students were required to create a capstone project encapsulating what they would do with their lives. I wrote a full-length play based loosely on the Greek Myth of Sisyphus.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

All told, it was my drama teacher, Christine Hansen, who pushed me to really give theatre a try. I fell out with an actress I was dating and found myself brooding in the back of the high school black box theatre like a stereotypical teenager with a broken heart. It was Christine who told inspired me with stories of working in NYC and touring nationally as an actor. She saw the sort of person I was and knew I would enjoy stage management and all the practical hands-on aspects of theatre. She also saw my talent for writing and mentored me as I wrote my first full-length play.

You probably have a lot of fascinating experiences. Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

This past winter I took a motorcycle from the top to the bottom of India. During my time I got to visited a NYC actor from India who was filming on a Bollywood set. It was there I experienced the magic of filmmaking for the first time in another country. I met a writer in the industry who has a theatre background, studied in NYC as well and now makes Bollywood films for a living. We are working on an exciting collaboration. I would never have suspected that my attempt to take a break from the performing arts industry and feed my artistic soul would lead to a potential collaboration halfway across the planet!

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I think the funniest mistake I made was trying to run a fight call as a stage manger without even knowing what a fight call was. I had no idea what I was doing. Luckily, the fight coordinator showed me the industry standard for running pre-performance fight calls. I learned a vital lesson about asking questions and not simply trying to act like you know what you’re doing. I make sure to explain things thoroughly to new people and try not to assume that everyone in the room knows everything about the theatre and give space for questions.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I am incredibly excited to be working as a writer/producer on an upcoming production of my latest play, Flight Risk, at the Gene Frankel Theatre in Manhattan. My director and friend, Dougie Robbins, and I set out to participate in a summer theatre play festival called “Fifteen Minutes of Frame” where we managed to win the festival and were commissioned by long-time downtown artistic director an founder of The Gene Frankel, Gail Thacker, to write a full-length version of our winning short play and premiere it March 6th. The experience has been wonderful, and we have managed to bring back the prize-winning cast members Grace Sallee and Conor Andrew Hall along with the addition of our newest cast member, Erik Van Conover.

I am also working on producing my full-length Wildfire off-Broadway in the upcoming theatre season. I know this play is going to be a game changer and I believe it has the potential to rock the theatre world. It is based on ym 5 years of working as a hotshot firefighter for the US Forest Service I think, especially after being in the city while it was shrouded in orange last summer, that his play will have a great impact on audiences and that it nothing like it has been seen on the stage before and certainly not with the lens of someone who has seen million-acre fires rip through the Canadian Rockies.

After we present my play in March, I am excited to be assisting my long-time mentor, the talented director Zishan Ugurlu, on her production of Madea at La MaMa. It is a hybrid re-imagining of La MaMa’s 1972 Medea, originally directed by Andrei Serban combining ancient tongues. This iteration of Medea seeks to create harmony between technology and the raw experience of the tragedy and delves into the current global refugee crisis. I can’t say much about what she has planned but it is going up in the newly renovated La MaMa space and I am incredibly excited to see how it will turn out!

You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of rejection, lack of support, or failure?

I think, particularly for writers, it is common to experience a lot of rejection. I have finally started to invest in myself and try to manifest my own success. I believe if you have the energy, then you should stop waiting on others to “discover” you and try to create art in any way you can. Whether it may be readings or performances in apartments or public spaces. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of artists in NYC who are looking to make good art with good people! I am found such fulfillment from even the small readings I started out doing. I reflect fondly on those times, and I look forward to more of them in the future!

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in the live performance industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I’ve seen a lot of folks burn out in the New York theatre industry. I think it is most important to realize that you are burning out and to take action. We all take on more than we can handle in an industry where people work several gigs at a time, that’s why it’s so important to check in with yourself and ensure you are not juggling more balls than you can manage. Once your drop one of the balls, everything comes crashing down.

What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career in Broadway, Theater or Live Performances” and why?

  1. You need to work with creatives who are not only just talented but also good people. There is no more room for the toxic types that make the process harmful. Those people impact the overall success of production in ways that we cannot see until afterward. I was on an off-broadway production that had a toxic stage manager who eventually was fired when we moved locations. He has an excellent resume but his attitude and history finally caught up to him. His demeanor affected the attitude of all the artists working which I believe impacted the opening night. That’s why it is vital to build a list of trusted collaborators.
  2. Resiliency is incredibly important whether as a writer, a performer, a director or a designer. The ability to get back up after successive failures is vital; when things go wrong, you need to adapt and solve problems; it allows for some of the most beautiful art to happen. During a play, I was stage managing a vital prop with a light failed. The assistant stage manager was frozen on what to do until I was able to get backstage during the performance and take the prop apart to fix a simple connection issue. She learned that when it comes to the theatre, the show must go on and that you need to be resilient and try your best to come up with the solutions. When another problem came up she felt empowered to fix the issue and was proud to tell me.
  3. Communication, I believe that communication is one of the most important aspects of the theatrical environment. If you do not master communication skills then productions will crash and burn. This something that we all are constantly working on and the ability to communicate effectively and with brevity will earn you respect and trust. I have witnessed directors who know exactly what they want and how to ask an actor or a designer to deliver it. A director must learn how to effectively communicate with confidence and be able to find the words to ask for what they need to complete their vision. I think it is the single most valuable skill for a director.
  4. Be willing to grow as an artist. Now, a big part of my desire to work with someone is whether I think they are genuinely trying to grow as an artist or a person. An important lesson I learned from a Broadway director about auditioning is that he is not just deciding whether you are talented but whether he wants to collaborate with you. He does not see it simply as “hiring an actor” but as partnering with a collaborative artist. I hope to continue to work with directors who view it that way, regardless of their power status.
  5. Finally, I think professionalism is vital. If you want to be successful in the business, try to remember that it is a job. Treating being an artist as your job is so important. Just because you are potentially getting paid to do what you love doesn’t mean it isn’t a job. Be on time, be respectful, and be professional. I stage managed an actor off-Broadway who was consistently late to every rehearsal and every performance call time. He felt that because he had a Broadway credit, he was better than the numerous people working in the cast and crew. We had several meetings leading up to the report filed with Actor’s Equity. His conduct and disrespect to the other actors was noticed, and he will certainly not be able to sustain that kind of attitude in the professional world. Even an incredibly talented artist should be able to respect the hard work of their peers.

For the benefit of our readers, could you describe how the skill-sets you need in a theater performance are different than the skill-sets you need for TV or Film?

I’ve been able to work on a few film sets. I think theatre folks have to learn how to do more with less. There are a lot of problems that money could solve but your production will not have. I have also worked on a theatrical showcase that was being filmed for a series. It was astounding the ways in which the director was able to solve problems on opening night in ways that a theatrical-only director might be nervous about. We ran the opening like a premiere of a play but since the audience was paid to be there, they were treated like “extras”. I truly saw how a sole-film director saw a live audience as a means to the film and it was incredibly enlightening. Of course, our extras had no complaints, but it was astounding to think about the mindset of a paid audience versus an audience that is paying to see a live performance.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would push for a legitimate recognition of the value of education. It is something politicians talk about during campaigns, but now that I’ve gotten older and traveled to over 2 dozen countries, I see that education affects all other aspects of society and, ultimately, the world at large.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I read this quote by William Arthur War as a teenager and tried to live by it my whole life. “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” I truly believe this has made me a better artist, stage manager, firefighter, and Airman. I have often heard people complain about something wrong in theatre and I will simply say, “What if you just asked for the thing you want, or set a meeting to change the rule?” and I would watch as the excuses and “buts” turn into a potential, “Yes, what if I at least attempted to change it.” An epiphany occurs in which someone realizes they have the power to make a change or at least attempt it. The best example of this is when a playwright complains to me about not getting their play produced; I offer the less than satisfying answer, which is, “What if you self-produced it?” This is something that scares people until they realize there are ways to advocate for grants or to perform plays in odd spaces with talented artists who are willing to participate on a donation basis or simply out of the desire for meaningful collaboration. It is the self-motivation of New York artists that keeps this art form alive and putting on workshops readings and limited runs can lead to bigger opportunities down the road.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I have a goal to one day have lunch with the talented director, John Tiffany. I believe my play Wildfire would create an excellent challenge for him and would benefit from his experience and talent.

How can our readers continue to follow your work online?

You can follow me @dakotasilvey on Instagram and track my latest projects at

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.