Say Something Worth Saying

Last week, Edward Albee passed away at the age of 88. He was, as many have said, one of the greatest American playwrights of our generation; penning Pulitzer and Tony award winning plays such as “A Delicate Balance”, ”Three Tall Women”, “The Goat or Who is Sylvia?” and “Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf?”

You may not have had the chance to read or see any of his plays, but I had the privilege to study under Mr. Albee for two years when he was a guest professor of the Writing Seminars Program at The Johns Hopkins University. I took “Writing with Albee” and “Acting with Albee”. The classes were held during the winter intersession and you had to submit an original work for acceptance into the class.

Over the six-week course, the objective was for the student-writers to create the best version of their play so the student-actors could then perform that play for a real audience, all under the guidance of Mr. Albee. He was eccentric, demanding and even testy at times. He once fell asleep during one of the rehearsals of a student play (not mine, thank goodness). For all of his eccentricities, he was a brilliant man, and I learned something that I took with me beyond my years as a student and an actor, into the business world. It can be summed up in this quote by Mr. Albee:

“I survive almost any onslaught with a shrug, which must appear as arrogance, but really isn’t because I’m not an arrogant person. When you write a play, you make a set of assumptions — that you have something to say, that you know how to say it, that its worth saying, and that maybe someone will come along for the ride.”

If you know who you are and what you stand for, you will have a distinct point of view. And, it is your responsibility to express that point of view in a way others find valuable. You may not connect with every single person in your audience, but that is not why you’re there. You are not there to be adored. Your job is to express your idea, provoke meaningful conversation, and quite possibly change existing beliefs. 

If you try to appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one. Mr. Albee didn’t write for the critics. He didn’t give audiences what he thought they wanted to hear. He gave them what he thought they needed to hear.

So, the one thing I learned from Mr. Albee, as he helped me make my writing and my performances more meaningful, is this; the next time you have the chance to communicate to an audience of one, or one million, remember to say something worth saying, and say it well. If you do, they will remember you long after you leave the room.

Stand for Your Brand,
Dave

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