Find your people. Finding your community will give you the support you need to conquer this industry. No one gets to the top all on their own. As your projects come and go, the love of your community will sustain you. You need friends who will lift you up during the harder times and just as fiercely celebrate all your wins.

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

Khalia Davis(she/her) is a multidisciplinary artist and Artistic Director of Bay Area Children’s Theatre where she led the world premieres of a kids play about Racism, which brought together over 40 theater producing partners and was viewed on Broadway on Demand nearly 80,000 times during its limited run. This show then became a free resource for educators and their students, and The Imaginaries: An Immersive

Musical, an original new work created by the newly-formed BACT Writer’s Room. Khalia directed and devised other new works like the award-nominated world premiere, She Persisted the Musical, based on the popular children’s book by Chelsea Clinton, the off-Broadway world premiere of an original adaptation of Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings with New York City Children’s Theatre, and most recently led the world premiere of Arthur and Friends Make a Musical! based on Arthur, the longest-running animated series on PBS with First Stage.

Other prominent theaters include Atlantic Theater Company’s Atlantic for Kids, New York City Children’s Theater, Disney Theatrical Group, Spellbound

Theatre and more. As a producer, Ms. Davis has helped organizations reach hundreds of thousands of young people through, interactive “edu-tainment” with the nationally known Story Pirates, generating new digital pre-school content with Spellbound at Home, and a children’s web series chronicling the experiences of a little black puppet girl named Nia living through the COVID-19 pandemic with her personal web-based company, Kids at Heart Productions.

Before assuming her new role as Artistic Director, Ms. Davis served as the Director of Inclusion and Education with Brooklyn Children’s Theatren restructuring their children’s musical theater programming through an anti-racism lens. She made her professional theatrical debut at thirteen years old launching a life-long career as a performer splitting her time between California and NYC.

Khalia is a proud board member for TYA/USA, Spellbound Theater, and The Story Pirates. Awards: 2019 Emerging Leader Fellowship-TYA/USA, 2019 NYCCT Leader Fellowship, 2021 Corey Medallion Award-Children’s Theatre Foundation of America. Khalia holds BA in Theater Arts from the University of Southern California

For more info, please visit!

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

Sure! I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 90s and early 2000s during the tech boom. I actually fell in love with the arts and performing at a very young age. I took dance classes and gymnastics. I attempted basketball and volleyball but didn’t have the aggressive spirit you need to fight for the win. But since my little sister played sports, specifically, softball, we always say my mom got her artist and her athlete. I feel blessed that I was surrounded by a lot of love. It gave me the assurance to chase after my dreams and aspirations.

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

When I was growing up, I would watch these shows with kids who looked like me and I wanted to do that too. It is why I care so deeply about representation in our industry. At six years old, I turned to my mom and declared that I wanted to be an actor. I am grateful my family took me seriously at age six. My first-time saying lines in front of people filled me with so much joy. I was addicted from the start and haven’t stopped my artistic journey.

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?

You are right. I would not be where I am today without the guidance and care of my family, especially my mother Joyce Davis, but also my mentors. Anita Dashiell-Sparks is a professor of theatre practice, serves as associate dean of equity, diversity, and inclusion for the USC School of Dramatic Arts, and has taught acting, movement, and critical studies at USC for over 18 years. When I got to USC as a freshman, I had yet to have more than one Black teacher in my entire school upbringing. For the first time, I met someone who was a beautiful reflection of who I was and also who I wanted to be. She approached education with enthusiasm and compassion. I saw myself and others flourish under her tutelage. She is the instructor who actually gave me the confidence to pursue an official professional career in the arts, embracing my love of performance and arts education.

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?

Wow that is so hard. I honestly feel like I have been blessed with so many interesting experiences as an artist. If I have to pick just one, I would say having a student approach me after a school performance and share that they liked my hair because it looked like theirs. It was a small moment, but it meant the world to me to witness the immediate impact my presence on that stage meant to that young child. I don’t know how many live performances she had seen featuring Black young women, but for that one day, she saw herself on that stage and therefore saw a place she belonged.

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?

Oh goodness. The funniest mistake? I don’t know how “funny” it is, but I made the mistake of thinking my call time, when I am supposed to show up for rehearsal, was at one time when really it was earlier. I definitely had egg on my face as the director showing up late to my own rehearsal. I learned to always double check the schedule and slow down. I would have seen the correct time if I wasn’t in such a rush.

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

I love directing new works and a couple weeks ago, we started rehearsals on the west coast premiere of a new play with lots of music called The Day You Begin based on the best-selling children’s book by author, Jacqueline Woodson. This is one of the first shows I have directed where I get to bring all of my favorite storytelling devises together in one piece. We use puppetry, physical storytelling, and creative movement to bring this world to life on stage for young audiences.

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?

Oh, well thank you for the compliment. Honestly, I am still navigating a lot of those same challenges but what I would say to those who are starting out to find what makes you special and unique and lead with that in everything you seek. The right projects will find you. And you don’t have to wait either. If you have an idea, create it yourself. There are so many ways to create your own work that didn’t use to exist. The more you live in your truth and do what brings you joy, the more opportunities will find you.

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

I would say you have to find other things that you are passionate about in order to create balance. If all you do is make art, especially for the consumption of others, you will fall out of love with what you do. It is important to not let your work or your job define your worth. When you release that, the idea of having to constantly be creating will cease and there will be room for new experiences.

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? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

  1. You need training. You have to find some way to learn the craft and it doesn’t have to be an MFA program. It could be a weekly meetup at an acting studio or a producer’s roundtable monthly meeting or a writer’s weekend symposium. If you take time to hone your skills, it makes you a smarter artist.
  2. Show up. It isn’t always about the roles you book or how many scripts you sell. Most of the time, the opportunities are born out of gathering and community building. I have been showing up to affinity meetings for BIPOC artists in the theater for young audience industry and because of my presence in these spaces, more and more individuals know who I am and what I do as an artist. I am sought out for new and exciting projects because they met me or have friends who know me from these affinity spaces.
  3. Embrace the journey. Even if you land a professional job right out of school, that doesn’t mean you will have the same success after that show closes. You have to lean all the way into the journey of being a professional artist. Success doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and dedication. If you embrace the journey, you can find joy in it too. There is no timeline so there is no rush. Have patience and enjoy each project as it comes.
  4. Be your authentic self in all spaces. If you pretend to be something or someone you are not, you will eventually burn out or even worse, forget the real you. The individuals who have found success in the arts are the ones who stand in their truth and use their own voices to share their stories. What do you bring to the table? A lot! When I stopped trying to act a certain way around other arts leaders and just showed up as myself, they saw me for who I really was and started asking me to use my strengths to craft new programming and curriculum, bring new work to life on stage, and lead groups and organizations in thinking innovatively.
  5. Find your people. Finding your community will give you the support you need to conquer this industry. No one gets to the top all on their own. As your projects come and go, the love of your community will sustain you. You need friends who will lift you up during the harder times and just as fiercely celebrate all your wins.

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 easiest way to find the difference in what is needed for live theatrical storytelling versus TV or film, is in the medium itself. Theater needs you to make big and bold choices that can be experienced by audiences of 50–5000.

Whereas, in TV and film, the camera pulls the audience into the world in a more intimate way which means your acting choices should be more subtle and nuanced. Unless there is a huge budget, most of the time an artist has to paint a fuller picture through words or actions on stage to help the audience know where they are in the scene. But in tv and film, often, the scenes are set on locations that feel realistic and relatable to the viewer.

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. 🙂

Yes! If I could jumpstart a movement, I would make it law that once every month, adults had to experience the life of a child. It would invite us to play more which would release stress, ignite creativity, and spark our own imagination.

Our world would be full of adults who embrace moving through life with wonder and curiosity as opposed to judgment and fear, which would hopefully lead to greater empathy towards others.

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

“If you are early, you are on time. If you are on time, you are late. And if you are late, don’t even bother showing up.”

This may seem harsh, but I hold onto this mantra from high school because it has led to some of my most exciting opportunities. When others have seen my work ethic, they know that I am consistent, trustworthy, nimble, and adaptable. I have gone from ensemble member to dance captain. I have gone from the assistant teaching artist to the educational director. And I have gone from an independent gig artist to a full-time arts leader all because I showed up early.

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 would love a chance to get lunch with former First Lady,

Michelle Obama! She has been a major influence for me, and I can tell that we share a lot of the same values and passions around the growth and development of young people. It would be wonderful to spend time talking about more ways we can engage young audiences in meaningful art experiences and how it can also relate to social issues children are facing today.

How can our readers continue to follow your work online?

You can follow me on IG: khaliashd or check out my website

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.