Stay weird. It’s what makes you, you. Your brand, your flavor, that magic… something you have that no one else ever will. Embrace your weirdness, use it to your advantage, and fuse your impossible self into the portrayals of your art. Your funky pattern-of-speech, your aesthetic style, that glint in your eye — all are wonderful aspects of yourself, full of life, that I urge you to pour into the way you show others your craft.
As a part of our series about creating a successful career in theatre, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Steve Weatherbee.
Steve Weatherbee (playing Jester in the upcoming play, The Jester’s Wife) has most recently been seen on stage at The Tank and the Connelly Theater, respectively playing Zack Brothers in Love Interest (Personal Pizza Party) and Joe in Pot Odds (SheNYC). Born in California (graduated CSUF), Steve is an MFA graduate from Texas Tech University where he appeared in various theatre productions of both states throughout his years in study. Love and inspiration from his family and friends continues to drive his pursuit of the craft, and particularly from his niece Karmen, who keeps Steve on his tip-toes and ever-imaginative. Not to be nailed down to just one medium of performance, Steve was a finalist in the Blockbuster World Video Game Championship (1994) at the age of seven.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Happy to be here and thanks for having me. I didn’t grow up in theatre or much of the arts. I was the kid constantly outside until the sun went down each day playing sports and games in the grass, concrete, sidewalks… wherever there was the space to play. Between myself and my three siblings, our mother raised us by herself as she gracefully navigated nurture, recreation, and finances for our family.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
Before heading back to my college studies after a few years doing non-profit work, a buddy of mine invited me to come see a show of his. That was… probably the third or fourth time he had asked me to come see one of his shows at our state university (I went attended our community college at the time), and I was never interested in going prior! I thought theatre was performing for kids (which is of course a worthwhile and bountiful endeavor), and as such I was just not keen on attending my buddy’s plays in my mid-20s. Well, I did wind up finally going to see a show of his (Arabian Nights), and I was floored. A flood of emotion and inspiration coursed through me as I cheered him and the amazing production on. So I was sold: I told myself I was changing my major to theatre arts before I returned to my community college studies, and so I did. I never focused harder on my studies, and specifically with the craft of acting. I wanted to soak everything I could up as fast as I could. After earning my AA, BA, and MFA, 25–30 productions later, a moving from California to Texas, and from Texas to New York, I still find myself daily inspired by not only the arts, but with the growth this career path has brought to my life, and how I view life.
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?
Oh — so, so many wonderful people have helped me get to where I am today. Boundless support from my family and friends, and a few dozen directors and professors who’ve taught me valuable lessons in the life and pursuit of this craft. I’ll always remember a very specific crossroads moment in my career or eduction, depending on how you look at it: I was set to earn my AA from Fresno Community College. Two of my theatre professors, Chuck and Debra Erven balked when I told them “It was a long and winding road earning my AA — I’m honestly ecstatic and I can’t wait to move to LA to pursue my acting career further”! They responded, “You’re not going to earn your bachelor’s degree?” with a sincerity and seriousness that struck me into re-thinking my immediate future plans. And I’m glad I did. I’ve had the opportunity to greatly expand upon my education, credentials, and craft by staying on a course of education. One still makes sacrifices going forward with an additional five years of education, but I further realized how much I love to learn, and I’m very happy I was encouraged to do so.
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 once forgot several props I was supposed to have in my pocket (The Glass Menagerie, in tech week) and got reamed for it. Deserved it! Never made the mistake again. For a different show (A Flea in Her Ear, also in tech week) I missed a mid-scene stage entrance. The actor left on stage, a community staple, gave me a death stare. I deserved that one, too. Never again, though!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
A new up-and-coming theatre production company called Personal Pizza Party are constantly putting up exciting and varied event around the city, and working with them earlier this Summer on the world premier of a staged reading of Love Interest at The Tank was probably the most three weeks of concurrent fun I’ve had in NYC thus far. Of course, The Jester’s Wife opening this early Fall is so exciting to take the stage with this incredible team in my off-Broadway debut, and it also happens to be one of the most challenging roles I’ve ever taken on.
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?
This is an important question all artists face in their respective careers paths. I’d encourage anyone under the stress of emotional and/or challenge of lack of resources to: A) Take charge of what you can; hour by hour, day by day. B) Understand what professionality means to you, and then always work to put that foot forward. And C) Be kind to yourself, and make sure you’re holding the space to be kind to others.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in the live performance industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Only invest your time and creativity on the projects and people who are also willing to invest in you.
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.
- Educate yourself, and train. Whether that means through a university, conservatory, or specialized classes in your city, the vast majority of artists depend on the experience of others: a teacher, a mentor, a guiding set of responders, etc. in order to research and practice new ways of looking at and portraying art. Once you’ve accumulated a certain sum of teachings, take your all your earned learnings to the professional field, couple it all with the unique-ness of your magic self, and give those casting directors a hell of a show.
- Be professional, and always be kind. What counts as professionalism in the theatre world can change in definition from person to person. What’s most important is to at least have a set of professional behaviors that you, to the best of your understanding, work on both a personal and outward scale of collaboration with others. Make sure that you stick to those standards you’ve set for yourself (and adapt those standards when it makes good sense to). In those rare times that two sets of people might find themselves in a disagreement over what is considered professional or not, this is where it’s especially important to always be kind. Kindness paves the way and lights the path for two people to come to the quickest and most harmonious path forward when the answer is not always apparent. Being kind is easy, and it costs you nothing — be kind to yourself and others!
- Invest in those that value you. Your personal investment in a project, production, or otherwise can take time, energy, research, creativity, financial and emotional investment, and even the sacrifice of saying ‘no’ to other projects that you might find interesting. If you are doing the above, I would hope that the people who stand to benefit from all your investments are also aware and willing to invest in you. But what should their investment look like? Here’s a few to get you thinking (and reminded of your value): Monetary compensation, food and travel reimbursement, professional credit, photography and/or footage from the associated production, personal decency, helpful modalities of communication, and the tools and safety required to effectively perform your part in the production.
- Move on gracefully when being told “no” by a casting decision. It happens to all of us, and it happens a lot more times than not. A casting decision that doesn’t fall in your favor can understandably lead to a souring emotional circumstance, and while the time for mourning that role you really wanted or felt you were right for should have time to settle, always remember at least these few silver linings:
– You earned yourself the audition by definition of your hard work and capabilities. There is power and value in that.
-You very likely will cross paths with that same casting director again. They will remember you as the artist they wanted to see for yet another audition (and therefore probably liked what they saw, even if the answer was ‘no’ in the past).
-Each audition is a learning experience, and is opportunity to fine-tune your artistic portrayals. Take account (with a gentle hand) of what you felt right, what you felt might’ve gone wrong, and what you learned while in the audition room. Such time and experience is valuable, and ideally shouldn’t be looked back upon with disdain or regret. Congratulate yourself on your audition and go get an ice cream. Dance in your living room. Call a loved one.
- Stay weird. It’s what makes you, you. Your brand, your flavor, that magic… something you have that no one else ever will. Embrace your weirdness, use it to your advantage, and fuse your impossible self into the portrayals of your art. Your funky pattern-of-speech, your aesthetic style, that glint in your eye — all are wonderful aspects of yourself, full of life, that I urge you to pour into the way you show others your craft.
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. 🙂
Our elections (yes, every other year [and sometimes in-between]) are so important. Be cool — VOTE!
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’ve always admired the way Keanu Reeves seems to navigate life. Sharing a meal with him would be nice. Wouldn’t even pick his brain. Just a good meal with someone who’d very likely be great company.
How can our readers continue to follow your work online?
Let’s be friends on Instagram! @Stevesaur (and www.SteveWeatherbee.com)
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!