I HAVE ALWAYS been a dreamer. I’ve always loved the idea of the unimaginable becoming reality. In fact, “Dare to Dream” was my motto throughout college! I believed in the power of dreams so much that I had it tattooed on the side of my body when I was 21 years old. In that moment, I realized I was actively living out one of my biggest dreams — attending college and pursuing my newfound passion in theatre.

(Editor’s Note: Cody Renard Richard is teaching a workshop at 2021 ITF! Join him and get tips for stage managing different media. From HAMILTON to JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR LIVE!, you’ll learn from the his experiences. Register now.)

The beauty of dreaming is that the possibilities are endless, and there are no restrictions or limitations to what we can achieve in our dreams. Our dreams should be big, they should be expansive, they should include all of our greatest desires. Yet we also know that “dreams don’t work unless you do.” If we don’t put any hustle or belief behind our dreams, they will stay exactly that — dreams.

A dream without a plan is just a wish.

According to a study by University of California researchers, people whose dreams include the process are more likely to stick to their goals than those who only dream about the desired outcome. In other words, if you only see yourself winning a Tony Award, and you don’t visualize the training, commitment, and preparation needed to get to that moment, you may be less likely to get up every day to fight for your dream. That’s where the work comes in.

Cody Renard Richard is a professional Stage Manager with a career that spans many genres including Broadway, Television, Cirque Du Soleil and Opera. Photo courtesy of Cody Renard Richard.

One of the biggest questions I ask myself when setting goals or dreaming about the future is “Why?” My why must be strong enough to motivate and inspire me to keep going until I can’t go any further. Equally important, I try to be as specific and intentional as possible when going after my dreams and goals. Following through with these intentions certainly takes patience, dedication and self-discipline — I’ll admit that I’m not always successful here, and that’s when my why becomes even more important.

You can absolutely reach your dreams if you give them a chance.

Cut to 2020, 10 years since I graduated college: I’ve been able to see many dreams fully realized, from working on Broadway to traveling the world to most recently the launch of The Cody Renard Richard Scholarship Program. Interestingly enough, the achievement of each of these dreams brought me a different awareness or obstacle to face. Whether it was the inequities of certain situations or figuring out how to navigate uncharted territory, each dream looked different than I initially visualized, which helped inform how I moved forward.

What are some of your dreams? And more specifically, when you close your eyes and dream about the future of theatre, what does that look like to you? I’ve been asked this question numerous times in the last few months, and every time I begin to answer, I’m reminded of this quote by the incomparable Ava Duvernay: “If your dream only includes you, it’s too small.” 

As a stage manager, Cody Renard Richard has worked on several television musicals, including Hairspray Live. Photo courtesy of Cody Renard Richard.

Back in October, I had the privilege to give the keynote address at the National Collaborators Conference, in which I offered up my personal dream for the future of theatre:

“When thinking and dreaming about future of theatre, for me this is what I see:

The future of theatre looks like me. The future of theatre looks like each of you engaging with me right now. The future of theatre reflects the world that I want to live in. The future of theatre welcomes, accepts and supports me as my whole being. The future of theatre is a place where I don’t have to hide portions of myself in order to fit in. I’m not code switching, I’m not awkwardly laughing at microaggressions, I’m not playing a game to work a system that wasn’t created for me, I’m not checking the company list before rehearsal to mentally prepare myself for what I’m about to walk into, and I’m not stepping out of rehearsal to wipe away tears because I feel powerless.

Instead, I’m creating art. I’m witnessing beautiful Black and Brown and White — and I’m talking African American, Asian, Caucasian, Latinx, Indigenous, Middle Eastern, women, men, non-binary, trans, I’m talking America. I’m creating art and collaborating with different cultures and ideas and backgrounds.

My voice isn’t being silenced — your voice isn’t being silenced. Instead, in this dream world, in the future of theatre we listen without interjecting, we ask questions of clarity for better understanding, we allow a space for others to be heard. We listen without the intent of responding, but instead with the intention of understanding what the other person is saying. 

In the future of theatre, the phrase “well, it’s always been done that way” doesn’t exist. The notion of returning to the way things were or “the norm” does not exist. Instead, it’s a world of new perspectives. We take the best of what has historically been done and continue to build upon that.

Cody Renard Richard served as a replacement stage manager for Hamilton on Broadway for a little more than a year.
Cody Renard Richard served as a replacement stage manager for Hamilton on Broadway for a little more than a year. Photo courtesy of Cody Renard Richard.

In the spirit of collaboration, we each have a responsibility to not only be the change we want to see, but to actively create that change in every decision we make. Our words and thoughts have power. What we say and how we move through the world affects more than just us.

Please join me in committing to doing the work. Join me in committing to continuing the work. Everyday, ask yourself:

“Are my actions echoing what I believe in?”

“Am I utilizing my gifts to the best of my abilities?”

“Am I collaborating with others to combine our magic to make something beautiful?”

“Am I allowing other perspectives in?”

“Am I providing space for someone else to shine?”

So I ask you again: What’s your personal dream for our future? What steps can you take today to get us closer to your dream world within the theatre? 

For me, I vow to never dim my light for the comfortability of others again, and I commit to making space for others, as I continue to take space for myself. We must remember that we are the future of theatre, and we have the power to shift the landscape of our reality — one dream at a time.

Hear more of Cody Renard Richard’s inspiring words at the 2021 International Thespian Festival. He’ll also share advice on stage management in a workshop just for students. Register now!

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