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.


Going opposite

Q: At some point in your life, you probably decided to take a leap of faith and go in a direction -- professionally or personally -- that others did not expect. Like quit Goldman Sachs to be a goat farmer. Or leave a company job for your own venture. Was the move a success? Did the new direction turn out the way you thought it would?

It's hard, when you're a senior in high school, to decide what you want to do for the rest of your life.

I always thought other countries do it better when you actually go work for one or two years before deciding what your future studies will be. But I was thrown into it like every other graduating senior and chose Communication Design/Graphic Arts. I always thought I would be an art teacher, but was driven into the advertising design field because of higher salary structure.

I graduated from Kutztown University in Pennsylvania and two weeks later moved to Washington D.C. with a job in an advertising agency. I was thrown into the real world overnight and enjoyed it. I went from designer to art director to production manager in three years and making a six figure salary for a 26-year-old But something was missing in my life.

I loved the theatre and had a huge passion for it but my parents always assumed you could not make a living at it. I started volunteering in the evenings at local community theaters in directing and design. I had the perfect balance. But as time went on, I realized this is what I really wanted to do. I had no education in theatre -- I learned from my own experiences and from watching others. It came to a point where the idea of starting a professional theatre in Arlington was a true reality.

I had to take more than a leap of faith -- it was a jump of faith. But I knew that if I put the energy and creativity behind all of it, it would make me a better person and fill my soul. I took a huge cut in salary that instantly changed my lifestyle overnight. I learned at an early age it wasn't about the money; it was about doing something I love. I am one of the lucky people who can say everyday I love going to work. Not many people can. It was scary, with a lot of unanswered questions.

The end result: It was the best thing I ever did in my entire life. I jumped but I jumped with the enthusiasm of a 10-year-old and had the determination and endless energy to make it succeed.

It's still hard work and endless hours, but the enjoyment I get from seeing how a production of a musical or play can touch someone's life is so gratifying. The greatest thing is that I don't even think the journey is half way done yet ... who know's what's next?

I think the most important thing in being successful is making sure that you are doing something you love. It's amazing what can happen.

By Eric Schaeffer  |  August 2, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Going for it Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Hello Eric. I was born and raised in Kutztown. Live in Colorado now. I wonder if our paths ever crossed.

Pretty cool to see my hometown mentioned in the news.

Posted by: tazmodious | August 4, 2010 11:37 PM
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