Keep a Dream Journal: Keeping a journal designated to your nightly dreams is a wonderful way of getting in touch with your inner well of creativity. Keep it next to your bed and upon waking write down anything you remember, a feeling, a color, a physical sensation, one image, a whole dream. Dreamwork is a practice that gently builds a connection with your unconscious where a lot of creative potential is hidden. Challenge yourself not to interpret your dream but rather let it infiltrate your creative work. My teacher Sandra Seacat used to say: “Don’t solve the dream, love the dream.”

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

Janina Picard is a German-born actor, director and teacher of dreamwork for artists based in NYC.

A professional film actor since the age of 15, she holds a BFA in Acting and an MFA in Stage Performance and Dramaturgy from State University of Music and Performing Arts Stuttgart. Born and raised in Frankfurt, Germany, her international career as stage and film actor eventually brought her to NYC where she now resides and works as a director for New Place Players, an Off-Broadway theater company committed to creating intimate Shakespeare productions.

Janina’s directorial vision is deeply influenced by her creative approach to working with the unconscious. She assisted, trained and studied extensively with her mentor Sandra Seacat in Los Angeles and has furthered her studies of dreamwork with the C.G. Jung Institute Berlin and the C.G. Jung Centre Dublin.

As a dreamwork facilitator, she has been coaching artists privately and teaching workshops internationally since 2020.

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

I grew up in a small German town close to Frankfurt, with a father who’s a martial artist and a mother who worked as a translator in the US and Australia. My upbringing was shaped by martial arts teachings — I spent most of my early childhood in my father’s dojo meditating and practicing Qi Gong and Taekwondo. I grew up bilingual (German and American English) because of my mom’s work — she would speak English with me growing up, while the rest of the family communication happened in German. I spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ house as a child, together with my younger brother. One of my favourite activities was sitting on their balcony watching life pass by. I would sit there for hours as a silent witness and then report back to my grandmother at night. My grandparents had a butcher shop, images of dead pigs and meat being chopped are deeply ingrained in my psyche. A highly sensitive child, I would have conversations with the animals and often felt an emotional connection with them. I then decided at 4 years old to become a vegetarian — a fun thing to do as part of a German family of butchers, let me tell you.

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

I was 5 years old when my father took me to a small underground theater in Frankfurt to see a friend of the family, Iranian actor and director Parviz Barid, perform in an adaptation of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. They had added a character to the play, portraying the personification of death, played by our dear friend Parviz. When he stepped onto the stage, I was terrified. He looked at the audience with a darkness in his eyes that made me shiver. In fact, I was so scared I crawled underneath my wooden chair so he couldn’t lock eyes with me. I couldn’t believe that this gentle, warm-hearted man who would sit in our living room drinking tea and telling stories about his family in Iran could turn into such a nightmarish figure. “Who is he really?” I kept thinking. From that night on I was terribly fascinated by the world of theater, it horrified and excited me. Some time later, after the initial shock had worn off, Parviz invited me as a guest to his university acting class he was teaching at the time. Bless his heart, I think he recognised that something was ignited in this little girl. I was 6 years old when I participated in my first sensory exercise and the fascination for what it is we do as storytellers has only grown ever since.

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?

Sandra Seacat has my deepest gratitude. I have a love so deep for this woman and for what she taught me, it’s hard to put into words. It’s an archetypal love. I met Sandra, a pioneer in bringing Jungian dreamwork to acting, while still in drama school in Germany. During my last year in drama school I was finding myself constantly frustrated; I felt depressed and disconnected from why I wanted to be an actor in the first place. While my body learned to be a highly trained instrument able to physically tell a story on a big stage, my soul was being crushed by the rigid rules of what it supposedly meant to be a real stage actor. It was a very unsatisfying way of practicing my art; at that time, I had been a professional actor in Germany for a number of years already. I felt boxed in and disconnected from my deepest artistic impulses. I was acting from the least resonant part of myself. My frustration back then was simultaneously the biggest gift because it led me on a quest to find out how I actually wanted to make art. I remember thinking: “there has to be another way”. That’s when I met Sandra Seacat. She opened the door for me to allow more of myself to come through in my work. I think we both recognised something in the other, as if we’re part of the same lineage of women, she’s my artistic grandmother.

I had the privilege of studying privately with her in Santa Monica and then started to assist her in her workshops in Europe. She became a close friend. Shortly before she passed away in January 2023, during one of our last conversations in the hospital, she urged me to “share the work”. Her teachings infiltrate all I do, and I hope to keep my vessel open so that “the work” she pioneered can grow through and with me in a way that would make her proud.

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?

I had a dream during the pandemic after I had just moved to Berlin — I left New York at the end of 2020 because living in NYC during this global crisis didn’t feel sustainable to me. Leaving my life in New York behind to move back to my home country wasn’t an easy choice, but the right thing to do at the time. I had the following dream: I’m in Manhattan, just getting off the subway at Canal Street. It’s almost nighttime, it’s snowing, and I’m on my way to the opening night of a theater performance I directed. As I walk up the stairs to exit the subway station I see a young woman in front of me on the stairs. She’s wearing a white sweater with a red print on it that says: “Romeo & Juliet” and below that in small letters “Patience”.

Back then, this dream felt like a “whole-making” dream to me. Oftentimes, a certain dream visits us to restore equilibrium within the psyche. This might for example show up in a dream in the form of a violent character when in waking life anger is being suppressed. Or, like in my case, I was given a dream experience that represents a reality I’m longing for and a creative energy that wasn’t present in my waking life at that time.

Fast forward 3 years:

When New Place Players’ artistic director, Craig Bacon, approached me in June 2023 and asked if I wanted to direct their new production of Romeo & Juliet, The Masque of Night, I immediately thought of this dream. We’re in rehearsals now for our first limited run of this show in a beautiful, historic NYC theater venue, Casa Clara in Gramercy, Manhattan and I’m truly grateful to work with a wonderful cast and musicians on such a beautiful production. It’s literally a dream come true.

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?

Wow, so so many mistakes. I love mistakes. Mistakes get me out of my head. This one got me into trouble though: I was just starting to audition for bigger productions, I must have been around 19 years old and was taking an early flight to Berlin one day to audition for a big casting director and a new television series. I was auditioning for the part of a young police woman in training. In the audition scene, she pulls out pepper spray from her purse. The prep-loving actor that I am, I found a way to buy some pepper spray (which is classified as a weapon in Germany and therefore its possession is illegal in Germany), put it in the purse I was planning to use as a prop in my audition, and headed to the airport. Well, the real life policemen at the airport in Frankfurt didn’t fully believe the story of a young aspiring actress using an illegal weapon as a prop for an audition and therefore needing to take it on the plane with her. I was interviewed at the airport’s security office for three hours and missed my flight, was late to the audition and, in the end, didn’t get the job. Lesson learned.

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

As mentioned before I’m currently directing The Masque of Night for New Place Players. We have a limited run March 8–10 at Casa Clara in Gramercy, Manhattan. Working on this show is such a joy. We’re privileged to be rehearsing and performing in this truly beautiful space, we do dreamwork together in rehearsals, we work with active imagination to pull Shakespeare’s words closer to our hearts, we sing and dance together.

In addition to my directing work I’m currently preparing for my next leading role in a feature film shooting later this year in Turkey and France, starring opposite Itziar Ituño and Javier Bardem. I’m not allowed to share more yet, but I adore the story and the character is quite a stretch and challenge for me. Lots of prep work, dialect work and research to do which thankfully I really enjoy doing.

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?

You will meet rejection almost daily in this business. It’s tough and heartbreaking. The rejection wound is such a deep one for all of us and as an actor this one gets triggered all the time. I still struggle with it myself but have learned to let the heartbreak break me open and embrace the feeling of vulnerability that comes from it. A wonderful teacher of mine, the late Jack Garfein, once told me: “You have to develop a hunger for vulnerability.” I truly believe in that, I’m at a point now where I really enjoy being vulnerable because it invites a level of intimacy into every room. Same with failure, failure is a real friend. It’s a tool of recalibration on your path. Some years ago I would get crazy amounts of commercial auditions and out of maybe 150 auditions I booked one bloody commercial. I remember the bad feeling in my gut doing all these auditions for brands I didn’t care about whatsoever. I failed and failed over and over again, didn’t enjoy the audition process and didn’t feel like putting my energy into this is helping my artistic growth. So I said: enough! That’s not how I want to spend my time. I told my agent and started to use the time I now had created for myself by saying NO, to write. I started writing my first short films, directed and produced them and ventured more and more into the directing path that now allows me so much creative freedom and a creative outlet I was always longing for while being a struggling commercial actor. So all of this to say: the rejection, the failure, the loneliness, it all belongs. It’s brutal and part of the process and deeply rewarding but you really have to be willing to be uncomfortable.

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

Take your foot off the gas every once in a while and give the inner voice space to be louder than the outside voices coming from the industry, your agent, your manager, your parents. Give yourself a break and see what arises in silence.

Thank you for all that. This is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career in Broadway, Theater or Live Performances” and why?

  1. Trust: Find ways to build self-trust. This is the one skill that will sustain you and keep you healthy in this industry in my opinion. Trust the process, trust the timing of your career and most importantly trust the closed doors. Trust the rejections, even if it sucks and hurts your ego. What if it didn’t work out because your higher self has a better plan for you? What if it didn’t work out because you’re supposed to grow in another area of your life at this specific moment in time? If you can find a way to trust the heartbreak, that’s when new doors open. I’m a kundalini yogi and in our practice we say: you can only rise as high as you are able to ground down. Trust is a matter of the root chakra, our very base of the energetic body. So nurturing the roots, the trust in ourselves is simultaneously nurturing our expansion.
  2. A willingness to fail: the most fulfilling experiences I had in my career so far, be it on stage or on set, were moments in which I fully surrendered to the possibility of failing completely and making a fool of myself in front of people I deeply admire. A little trick that helps me here is giving my anxiety a voice. Instead of spending energy towards hiding it, I might speak out loud in front of the crew, the other actors, in front of the ensemble: “I really want you all to think I’m a great actor. I’m scared to disappoint you.” That way I release it from my system and don’t have to worry about someone finding out that I really just want to be loved 🙂 I reveal my own deepest fear so that I basically trick my mind into thinking: “well, now I don’t have anything to lose” and then I can shift the focus from my inner critic to what’s at stake in the scene. And often times I might find that my personal fear is actually connected to what my character is experiencing in the story so it can serve as a way of opening the door to the inner life of my character as well.
  3. A daily practice: Create a daily ritual for yourself. Preferably a morning practice that sets the tone for the day. You can get creative here and build a practice that is uniquely yours. My current morning practice is a mix of dreamwork, Kundalini Yoga, Breathwork and Meditation. I adapt it to what my body needs that day but I show up on my yoga mat every single morning. I’m a total free spirit, travel a lot for work and struggle with sticking to routines but this one is non-negotiable for me.
  4. Engaging in other artistic activities: In my dreamwork practice I encourage my clients to work with their inferior function creatively: If I’m working on writing a script for example, I might find ways to dance the words, if I’m working on a song, I might paint it. If I’m working on creating a character, I might go to a museum letting myself be inspired by paintings. I believe it’s very healthy to engage in activities that make you feel like a complete beginner.
  5. Keep a Dream Journal: Keeping a journal designated to your nightly dreams is a wonderful way of getting in touch with your inner well of creativity. Keep it next to your bed and upon waking write down anything you remember, a feeling, a color, a physical sensation, one image, a whole dream. Dreamwork is a practice that gently builds a connection with your unconscious where a lot of creative potential is hidden. Challenge yourself not to interpret your dream but rather let it infiltrate your creative work. My teacher Sandra Seacat used to say: “Don’t solve the dream, love the dream.”

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?

The biggest difference for me is in what a work day looks like. You need to use and distribute your energy in completely different ways. When working in theater it’s important to me that I’m consciously filling my day with activities that save energy and/or give me energy so I can share from a full cup on stage at night. It’s also crucial to me that I keep a social life during the day and not let my whole day be consumed by the fact that I have a performance at night. Whereas working on set means a complete immersion into a particular world for me. I usually don’t even bring my script to set, I like to keep my phone (if possible) in my hotel room and enter the world of the story the moment I arrive on set. Even during breaks and hours of waiting for my next scene I like to stay “in the field” as I call it. I might take a nap or do a little yoga session in my trailer but I stay in the emotional radius of my character. It takes a lot of practice finding out for yourself how to best spend your time waiting on set and I believe it’s different for every actor and also depends on the character you’re playing but learning how to handle your energy during a full day of shooting is central to on-camera work.

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 strongly believe in the power of art. Art is alchemy, a process that triggers transformation. Art asks questions. Therefore the movement I want to be part of is bringing artists closer to their source. When an artist creates from an authentic place rather than from ego the outcome is art that mirrors and reflects the culture and therefore has a huge influence on the world we live in. When I coach other actors and directors in my dreamwork practice we work a lot with active imagination, a tool that helps us to be in conversation with inner material. It’s about quieting the mind and listening to the most subtle impulses of the body. I believe that when we do that, we create an allowing atmosphere within our psyche. Allowing means making space. We need space for new art to emerge, otherwise the artist repeats what once did well and becomes a people pleaser rather than a culture shifter. Repeating the old gets in the way of growth. If we want to contribute to moving culture forward as artists we need to create from a place of authenticity. We need today’s artist to function as a shaman in our western society. I as an artist need to understand that the way I treat myself is the way I make art is the way I treat others is the way I treat the planet. In that sense I believe that creating art is a form of creative activism.

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

“To thine own Self be true”. Self with a capital S. Discovering the Self, unrelated to the outer demands of the world and then acting accordingly to that inner truth is a lifelong path of exploration. This exploration is my why. It’s why I make theater, it’s why I’m an actor, it’s my motivation for being an artist and for sharing dreamwork with other artists. And it’s also my intention as a director, to create a rehearsal space that allows the actors to be unapologetically true to themselves and explore from there.

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.

A nice brunch with Robert Wilson would be a dream. He’s been a source of inspiration for a long time and I have So. Many. Questions. 🙂

How can our readers continue to follow your work online?

I’m on Instagram: @janinapicard

New Place Players:

“The Masque of Night” March 8–10:

And I’m available for private coaching online, in NYC and on set:

Dreamwork for Artists:

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

Thank you! :))


  • 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.