Eric Schaeffer
Theater director

Eric Schaeffer

Co-founder and artistic director for Signature Theatre in Arlington, which won the 2009 Regional Theatre Tony Award for sustained artistic excellence.


Put on your boots

Q: What's the right response when you come tantalizingly close to success but fail to achieve your goal? How hard is it to recover from heartbreaking setbacks like the ones the Washington Redskins have endured in recent weeks? How often have you experienced reversals that tested your own spirit?

Working in show business is such a roller coaster because you judge your success by what other people write or say about your creation. When I direct a show, everything ends up riding on my shoulders. From casting to design to the actual production itself -- it all falls on the director.

What becomes frustrating as an artist is that you need to be able to judge your own success and be your greatest critic. I always say that if you believe the good reviews then you have to believe the bad reviews as well.

What's hard is that sometimes critics already have their minds made up before they come and see the production or they may just have had a bad day and are not in the mood to see the kind of theater you are producing. That gets reflected in their writing. It's happened to me and there is nothing you can do about it. That's when it's really important to remember that this is one person -- and ask yourself does that opinion really matter that much?

I've gotten raves to pans and in this business and you have to have really thick skin. It's one of the hardest businesses around. I also find fascinating that when ever you confront critics on their reactions -- it's not an equal playing field. They do not want to hear anything that contradicts their opinion -- even when they have factual information wrong. Unfortunately you are just left hanging.

I had a Broadway show that transferred from Signature Theatre and opened on Broadway and closed the same night. It made history and was called "Glory Days." We ended up calling it "Glory Day," and would joke about it. t was the best way to get through the experience. But as the two young authors said to me, they would have never changed the experience for anything.

What happened in this case was we were not in control. We had a team of people above us and the choices they made were not the right ones. It's hard on all fronts when something fails -- but I always say you just have to pick up and put your boots on. You feel the world is on your shoulders because you are dealing with the cast, crew and writers and designers. Suddenly,overnight, all have lost their jobs.

As hard as it is, you just have to learn from the experience and prove them wrong the next time. If it wasn't hard to recover from it , you wouldn't end up being the passionate artist you must be to communicate to audiences. Those are times you remember for the rest of your life.

By Eric Schaeffer  |  December 11, 2009; 8:51 AM ET  | Category:  elusiveness Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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