Welcome back to I Wish I Knew, a blog series dedicated to learning what working artists wished they knew when they were starting out. The goal is to inspire and motivate new and/or aspiring artists (maybe that’s YOU!), to prepare fellow artists to succeed and keep pushing. I don’t believe in the idea that everyone needs to start at the bottom and struggle to learn the hard lessons the hard way. If we in the older, ‘wiser’ generation have the ability to keep others from making the same sobering mistakes we made starting out, why wouldn’t we?
This month, we get to meet a talented and successful freelance director, Amy Anders Corcoran!
I have known Amy (she/her/hers) since my days in grad school at the American Conservatory Theater (which wasn’t actually that long ago…I graduated in 2014). Amy has the most infectious personality. She is energetic, positive and knows that having fun is as vital as the hard work in any endeavor.
I first met Amy when she worked as a choreographer. The first thing to note about Amy is that she is multitalented and can do anything she sets her mind to. Amy choreographed my grad school class in an incredible production of Andrew Lippa’s Wild Party directed by the late, great Mark Rucker (one of Amy’s mentors). Wild Party was one of the best shows I’ve ever been a part of, partly because I got to play a dream role (Kate), but mostly because I got to know Amy more deeply.
Since then, Amy has become one of my mentors. She has been one of the only people who takes me seriously when I say that I want to direct! I worked with her on a workshop of Polkadots: The Cool Kids Musical and then became her associate director on a new musical at The York Theatre Company called Unexpected Joy. Along with being a fabulous mentor, Amy is the New Musicals Consultant at La Jolla Playhouse and was recently the Associate Director on Escape to Margaritaville on Broadway!
One of greatest things I’ve learned from Amy is her ability to demand respect as a woman in a room filled with mostly men. She is the master of making people feel heard while still standing up for what she believes in. Amy is also a mother and the way that she juggles motherhood and a career is something that is infinitely interesting to me as a woman who eventually wants to do the same. I am inspired by Amy and how much she advocates for women in the industry, and I know you will be inspired by her too.
Q: When did you first know you wanted to become a director?
I don’t remember ever NOT directing. I would direct kids in my neighborhood in shows, I was captain of the drill team, but…I didn’t really know a lot of female directors, so I never thought about doing it as a career until much later. I was incorrectly ingrained into being a performer for too long.
Q: What do you love most about being a director?
Telling stories and collaborating with great minds to tell those stories in interesting ways.
Q: What is one of the best experiences you have had directing a show and why?
One of the best experiences I have ever had was the site-specific production of I AM MY OWN WIFE. It was a long held dream to direct that piece in an antique store, and two great friends with a production company made it happen. A great friend had co-owned an antique shop so he connected me with the other owner and it all came together. It was absolutely a dream come true. Everyone was onboard, I got to pick my team, I had a brilliant and game actor…I could go on and on. It meant so much to me as an artist to prove this vision could work. We have so little control of our own career, and people mostly ask me to direct musicals (which I love, don’t get me wrong). This was all mine and then all OURS. No one would ever think of me to direct that play. Doug Wright was so supportive throughout the process, and came on opening night—he is a dream of a human and the best sort of playwright. He’s super game for people to re-think his work. That will stick out in my career as a real highlight forever.
Q: What is your biggest challenge associated with being a director?
Finding jobs. Also, as I’m a mom with a kiddo now in a structured school setting….TRAVEL. The travel is insane.
Q: How is being an associate director different from being a director?
Being an associate director is, for the most part, a TOTALLY different job than a director. Instead of figuring out how you would tell the story, you are implementing how someone else wants to tell the story, and working through a different lens. I am lucky that the people I have been an associate for always value my opinion, and I feel heard, but it isn’t really about that when you are an associate, especially on a big show. I find people who are less successful at the job focus on that part–the “wow I have something to say and no on is listening to me”. It’s not the time; There is too much to do. You maintain blocking, you coordinate lighting notes with the lighting designer, give sound notes, talk with some of the actors, work with stage managers on scheduling details….you are there to help the director be able to establish their vision. I love being an AD. I love being a director, too, but I still like to mix it up because my type A personality also works very well as an AD. I like the challenge of figuring out how they want things done and trying to stay a few steps ahead of them. I was a BA psychology major, and it comes in really handy.
Q: What are some things you wish you knew before becoming a director?
1). What you do best will become possible to do all the time.
2) Run your own race.
Don’t compete with others, even in your mind. Hone in on your own talents.
3) You are going to lose jobs that will almost break your will and spirit. They won’t. There will be other jobs.
4). You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at the same time.
There will be times when your career is going great, and times when your life is going great. Hopefully, you still find time to work out now and again.
5) Do every job possible in the field.
I was a deck manager once in summer stock. I also took tickets, cleaned toilets, whatever. But I do wish I would have taken a lighting design class. Luckily, the world class lighting designers I have sat by have taught me a lot.
Q: What is a one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received?
Learn to say no. SAY NO. (Still working on this, but it’s great when I do).
Q: Where can people find out more about you?