Identifying as a multi-hyphenate artist, someone with multiple roles in the theatre world, gives you the freedom to create a personal brand that sets you apart from others. Being a multi-hyphenate is all about being authentically, uniquely you. It’s also about being proud of the combination of skills that you bring to the rehearsal space. Stand out in a powerful way as a multi-hyphenate by employing these three tips:

Multi-Hyphenate Artist_Malloy_Unique.DNA.Photo by Alexander Suhorucov from PexelsThe Multi-Hyphenate Artist: In the theatre world, your combination of skills is as unique as your DNA. By defining this uniqueness, pitching it to others, and finding lifelong collaborators, you empower yourself and others to create innovative art.

1. Center Yourself

When it comes to defining your multi-hyphenate artist identity as a theatre maker, it helps to think of an image of a bicycle wheel. Multiple spokes branch out from the center of the wheel, also called the hub. The “hub” of your theatrical identity can be thought of as the primary field you work in, and the “spokes” are all other fields that branch off from this primary field. For example, you could choose to call yourself a playwright-designer, using “playwright” as the center of what you do, while “designer” is a secondary field that you work in. The first half of your multi-hyphenate label reveals where you do most of your work, and when you are trying to define yourself, it serves to center you in a specific field.

It’s impossible to work in every field in the theatre industry simultaneously, so instead of stretching yourself to the breaking point, try to choose one field that you particularly resonate with, then identify other activities that supplement your work in that field. It’s much easier to deliver a two- or three-word explanation of your identity than to give a rambling explanation of every field you’ve ever worked in. To stand apart from the crowd, focus is key.

2. Pitch yourself

Once you’ve figured out your multi-hyphenate artist label, the next step is to create a short pitch that explains how your multiple identities are interconnected. When approaching another theatre maker with whom you may want to work with, one critical tactic is to define the “why” behind your choice to pursue multiple fields of work. This gives a strong emotional hook to your pitch that makes your story memorable.

For example, if you work as a performer-sound designer, you could pitch yourself by saying, “I’m a musical-theatre performer who also works as a sound designer. I use my experiences as a performer to design sound plots that can be adjusted to actors’ individual needs.” When your “why” story and multi-hyphenate label combine, potential collaborators see how your identities work together. How two or three seemingly unrelated fields of work can be united by your personal vision. Proving that you can balance multiple fields, and move fluidly between and among them reveals your resourcefulness and creativity. The people you want to work with will take notice!

3. Match yourself

After you’ve pitched yourself to others, connect and collaborate with fellow multi-hyphenate artists. Choosing collaborators is exciting and rewarding. Look for other theatre makers who have skills that you lack. For instance, a director-performer and a designer-playwright working closely together combine all four of their skills to explore more avenues of possibility!

A collaborative group with diverse skills and backgrounds sets themselves apart by their versatility. The group brings value on multiple levels. One strategy to finding a well-suited collaborator is to ask them what kinds of stories they like to tell. Also ask them which forms of media they favor. Pairings that like to tell similar stories in similar ways usually work well together. And you’ll all bring different talents to the table in your shared storytelling passion.

We don’t always tell the same type of story, but we tend to be drawn to certain themes. Successful theatre makers find a variety of vehicles to share their favorite kinds of stories. Perhaps you already know the seven basic stories but if not, they are:
• Overcoming the Monster
• Rebirth
• The Quest
• The Journey and the Return
• Rags to Riches
• Tragedy
• Comedy

In the theatre world, your combination of skills is as unique as your DNA. By defining your uniqueness, pitching it to others, and finding long-term collaborators, you empower yourself and others to create innovative art. Remember that using your talents to empower and uplift others boosts creativity for all. 

Dylan Malloy is a playwright and director whose first play, “The Rocket Man,” was adapted from a short story by Ray Bradbury and premiered in March, 2021. She’ll be attending Emory University as a playwriting major, with a double major in business on the arts administration track. Connect with her on Instagram @dylan_writes.

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