Featured Artist In Action: Michael Cyril Creighton

Michael Cyril CreightonIt’s Featured Artist in Action time again (which, as regular readers know, I am a BIG fan of!). This time around we’re talking to actor and writer Michael Cyril Creighton. Michael has a great success story that’s sure to inspire: While working in the box office at Playwrights Horizons, he created a web series about a guy that works in a box office. That series — Jack in the Box — went on to win him a WGA award for best new web series. He subsequently quit his job at Playwrights and less than six months later was cast in a play there, in which he was then nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award. He’s since found success in numerous mediums, and continues to make a name for himself as an actor and writer. Let’s turn it over Michael to get the full story!

1.  When you were first starting out in the business what were your goals? 

To be honest, my goals change daily. However, the constant things I’ve always kept in mind are: 1) I want to do work I am proud of; and 2) I want to be surrounded by people I enjoy and am inspired by. Of course, there has been a lot of trial and error, but so far, so good. I was constantly told when I was in college that I “wouldn’t work til I was in my 30’s and grew into my type.” While I appreciated the candor of my teachers, I came out determined not to be defeated. So another goal was to stick with it and be patient. But I’m not patient. So, I decided it was best to make my own work so that I didn’t get stagnant and petrify while I was waiting to age.

2.  What have you accomplished since then?

Pretty early on in my career I was a founding member of The New York Neo-Futurists, which was an invaluable first step in figuring out my voice as a performer and writer. While I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, I dabbled in stand-up and storytelling and did a little hosting for VH1’s video podcasts. Eventually, I started working regularly with The Debate Society, a fantastic Brooklyn based theatre company and through working with them really feel like I honed my craft as a stage actor. I have been lucky enough to originate roles in four of their plays: Cape Disappointment, You’re Welcome, Buddy Cop 2 and most recently Blood Play (which we did at The Public Theater’s Under The Radar Festival, and later at Williamstown Theatre Festival). In between working on those productions, I was also lucky enough to do the NY Premiere of Christopher Durang’s The Vietnamization of New Jersey, which is how I got my Equity Card. (Side Note: When I found out they were doing that play, I wrote the director and said “I’d love to be seen for the role of Father McGillacutty. I know you may think I am too young…but I can grow a beard. I can do it.” And I did.)

I also did the NY Premiere of MilkMilkLemonade by Joshua Conkel, in which I played the role of “Nanna” and received a NY Innovative Theatre Award Nomination. During this time I created my web series, Jack in a Box, which was based on my day job working in an off-Broadway theatre box office. This was the smartest thing I ever did and became a calling card of sorts for me. The series ran for four years and consisted of 31 episodes. I won “Best Web Series” at the NY Television Festival in 2010, and was twice nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award for Outstanding Achievement in Original New Media. I won that award in 2013.

I think as a direct result of creating an on-camera persona through Jack…, I started getting work on TV. I’ve been seen in small roles on 30 Rock, Louie, Person of Interest, Orange is the New Black, and Nurse Jackie. Although Jack in a Box has ended, I continue to work on the web, guest starring in other people’s series and last year wrote an episode of the critically acclaimed (and totally beautiful) web series High Maintenance, which I also guest starred in.

Most recently, I was seen in the NY Premiere of Sarah Ruhl’s Stage Kiss. I was named a “Face to Watch” in the NY Times Spring Preview and received an Outer Critics Circle Nomination for Outstanding Featured Actor for that production. The show was at Playwrights Horizons, which is where I worked in the box office for eight years while doing all of the above mentioned things. It was nice to be home.

3.  What was the most valuable thing you learned from creating your own work?

Creating your own work is scary, but also so rewarding. You don’t have to wait for people to give you the opportunity to show what you got…you can just show it. And you can work with whomever you want to work with. I am so grateful for the fact that I was able to work with some of NY’s best actors, all of whom took the words I wrote and made them sound infinitely funnier than I even imagined.  I didn’t create my own work out of a desire to be famous, it came from a real need to be seen and heard. It was also a safe way to learn. Learn about writing, acting on camera, working with others. It was like my own little grad school. I recommend it.

4.  What has been your biggest career challenge and how did you overcome it?

Self-Doubt. I am not sure I’ve overcome it, but I have learned to make it sit in the corner for a little while.  It’s a tricky little bugger. Also, managing expectations. I’ve learned not to have any and just enjoy what I’m doing.

5.  What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting out?

That it’s hard. That there are ups and downs, and they come without warning. That it’s ok to work a full time job while you have to if it allows you to do the work you want to be doing.  That it’s important to have a full life outside of performing. That if you book a vacation, you will definitely get a job that conflicts. That casting directors are not to be afraid of and they want you to succeed. That when it’s good, it’s really good. And when it is bad…it’s probably going to get good again.

6.  What are you currently working on?

I just finished writing an hour long pilot that I’m gonna tinker with for a bit. I’ve been writing more and hoping to create something new soon.  In July I’ll be doing a reading of The First Wives Club with Audra McDonald, Sherie Rene Scott and Lili Taylor. Other than that, I’m auditioning, looking forward to whatever is next and enjoying life.

7.    Anything else you feel like sharing?

I just want to say how much I support what Capes Coaching in doing and am so happy to see all the success they’ve gained. I worked with Jodie when we were both spring chickens at an amazing (but no longer around) theatre company called Drama Dept. It’s there I met some of the most influential people in my life, and I’m so glad Jodie & Betsy are two of them that had a dream and made it happen.

Accepting the roller coaster

Vintage Roller Coaster

I’m big on metaphors. Anyone who coaches with me knows this. There’s something about an image — a visual representation — that just locks in an idea for me. Even better, I’ve found that the perfect metaphor can resonate universally; it’s a powerful tool that can connect a vast amount of people in a very simply way. This proved true just recently in a group coaching session at One on One — I threw out the idea that navigating a career in this business is a lot like being on a roller coaster, and the entire room gave a collective sigh and emphatic “YES!”

Let’s be honest, when things are going your way in this industry, it can be THE BEST feeling in the world. It’s one of the reasons why artists often put up with all they have to — there’s nothing like the thrill of success in this business. Talk about peaks! And, the funny thing is that even the valleys can be exciting; the natural rush of going from one extreme to another brings its own sense of drama that, for artists in particular, can satisfy a desire for excitement. It’s kinda of like a constant series of mini-adventures! There’s a moment from the movie Parenthood (one of my faves!) that literally speaks to this idea, as the grandmother talks about how much she loved feeling thrilled, scared, sick and excited all at once when riding roller coasters in her youth, as opposed to the people who loved the consistency and sameness of the merry-go-round. Take a look:

Of course, she’s using it as a metaphor for life itself, just as I’m talking about a career in the arts. And, just as in life, there are some of us who are more drawn to the nice consistency of the carousel in our careers. And why not? It’s nice to know exactly what you are getting into — the pace is methodical; you don’t get shaken up too much; you can plan for it. The carousel is, essentially, the 9-to-5 day job. But, a career in the arts isn’t like having a steady, 9-to-5 job. And imagine the problems that could arise if you were to expect the experience that comes with the carousel (or the ferris wheel) when you’re actually in line for the roller coaster. The ups and downs…the adrenaline rush…the fear…none of it may come off as satisfying or exciting if it subverts your expectations.

And then there’s the waiting! Space Mountain is a lot of fun…for three minutes. After you’ve waited in line for two hours. Unless you are absolutely prepared for the experience of long waits that are occasionally punctuated by bursts of extreme excitement, you can easily grow weary of the entire process, and that feeling of weariness can affect your entire life.

What does all of this mean? It means that when you choose to pursue a career in this industry that you need to accept that you are indeed waiting to ride a roller coaster, and you have to embrace that choice!  If you can’t, then you are likely in line for the wrong ride. Maybe Space Mountain is not for you. Perhaps It’s A Small World or the tea cups are more your jam.

Something that may make waiting for the roller coaster easier is making the most of your downtime in between rides. You can do this by investing your time and energy in things that bring more consistency, stability, and grounding to your career as you wait your turn. Think of it as a halfway point between the exciting drama of the roller coaster and the steadiness of the carousel. You can have the best of both worlds — it just takes a little bit of work.

So, what ride are you in line for? And is it the ride you’re prepared to take?

Celebrating 10 Years of Capes Coaching

sistersOn April 1st, 2004, Capes Coaching opened its doors with the mission to serve and empower our artistic community. We wrote our first business plan, got a loan through the Small Business Administration, rented a tiny office space in Union Square and began to coach. We simply would not be here, 10 years later, if it weren’t for you, and we would like to take this opportunity to honor you and all that you’ve meant to us throughout the years. We are forever grateful…

To our family:
Thank you for raising us, educating us, supporting us, investing in us and believing in what we do. We’ve had the opportunity to make a difference and it’s all because of you.

To our friends:
Thank you for listening, for being our champions and reminding us that work is better when we take time off to be with friends.

To our coaches / mentors / therapists / acupuncturists, etc.:
Let’s be honest, two sisters having babies and running a business together can get “messy” at times. Even coaches need coaches, and your guidance and support have kept us in the game. Thank you for helping us stay focused on what really matters. And to our coach, MH — you’ve been there for us since day one.  We are so blessed to be working with you. You’re a rock star!

To Capes Coaching staff past and present:
Thank you for bringing your skills and talents to our company, and for being patient with us as we’ve navigated through the ups and downs of running a small business. Capes Coaching is undoubtedly stronger because of you. And to our office lothario, BK — you are our touchstone. Thank you for winning our hearts with that kick-ass cover letter 7 yrs. ago!

To Capes Coaching clients past and present:
Thank you for showing up and doing the work: for saying your goals out loud, being honest, being messy, asking for help, staying accountable, taking risks, sharing your successes, learning from your failures, valuing your creativity, telling your friends about us, giving us your feedback, sharing your resources and inspirational stories with your peers, and for sticking with coaching especially when it’s pushed you outside of your comfort zone. Quite simply, we are in awe of what you do and it is a privilege to be a part of your journey.

To everyone we have yet to work with:
We know what it’s like out there and we want you to know that you don’t have to do it alone. Whenever you’re ready, we’re here to listen to you…to support you…and to help you realize your dreams.

Here’s to the next 10!
Betsy and Jodie

Featured Artist(s) in Action: Ilana Glazer & Abbi Jacobson

Ilana Glazer (l) and Abbi Jacobson (r) of Broad City.

Ilana Glazer (l) and Abbi Jacobson (r) of Broad City.

2014 is here, and what better way to kick off the new year than with a Featured Artist in Action blog post…or, rather, Artists in Action. This time around we’re talking with two of the funniest comedians around — UCB alums Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson. I’ve had the absolute pleasure of knowing these ladies for years, as both have taken the Path Class. In the time since, I’ve seen them pour their hard work and passion into their hilarious web series, Broad City, which has gone from having a very dedicated cult following to getting picked up by Comedy Central (and produced by fellow UCB-alum, Amy Poehler!). The first season of Broad City on Comedy Central premieres on January 22, but before you become hooked, check out what Ilana and Abbi had to say about their Path experience and how they’ve gotten to where they are.

When you first started working with Capes Coaching, what were your goals?

Abbi Jacobson: When I took the Path class my main goals were to try and get more auditions, be more confident, and to start really treating my career more seriously.

Ilana Glazer: My goals pointed toward time management and completing writing projects. I had 3 or 4 projects that I planned seasonal successes for — some under my control and others that felt more out of my hands. Taking the time to do the planning for those “out of my hands”projects, though, forced me to prepare for opportunities that might come my way.

What have you accomplished since then?

AJ: Since then (I took Path in Fall of 2009) I’ve created and released 2 web seasons of Broad City with Ilana; my solo show, Welcome To Camp, ran at UCB in NYC and LA; I’ve booked a few commercials; I’ve joined the WGA and SAG/Aftra; and, most importantly, Broad City is now a TV show that I get to write, act in and produce.

What was the most valuable thing you learned from the taking the Path Class?

IG: This is not the thing, but: the Path Class has this very cool, very human understanding that you can plan to get from point A to point B, but you  may end up in some place you never expected, or you may take a detour that gets you to some other great place. The point is — plan and prepare for greatness, and you’ll find it some way. But the Path Class actually does accomplish specifically what it sets out to do, every single class — empower artists to create their own path and to know that their career is in their hands. That was the most valuable thing I learned — THE #1 thing!

AJ: I think for me it was the real shift in mentality. After taking Path, I realized I just had to make things happen and that it was really up to me. That can also be very daunting, but it’s a relief to know that you have control and power over your creativity and your career.

What has been your biggest career challenge and how did you overcome it?

IG: My biggest career challenge, still, is managing simultaneous projects but being present with each one. This is a LIFE challenge for me, actually. But the best and most palatable work, I find, comes from genuine fun creation. What helps me overcoming this is outlining my goals and progress — on paper or computer is preferred, but sometimes it’s just thinking about it.

AJ: I think before Broad City I was always doubting myself. Nothing was really happening for me — I just wasn’t confident in my voice in anything. It’s a constant struggle for me to be confident in myself and my skills in writing and performing, but at a certain point you have to just stop thinking about it and just keep doing it as much as you can. I still doubt stuff all the time, but that’s just part of my process and I think it actually make the end result a lot better.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting out?

AJ: There are many many ways to be successful and satisfied in this industry. It doesn’t happen the same way for everyone. When I took The Path class, I was still in the mentality that getting on a house team at the theatre was the way, the only way to get seen and heard. There are so many ways and if you find your own way it can take you places you never could have imagined.

IG: Nothing. I would say “to have more fun,” but it’s not possible. Coming up in the comedy community has been the most rewarding and identity-validating experience of my life, from the very beginning. This even includes bombing on stage.

What are you currently working on?

IG: A few projects with different mediums. I really want to experience as many factions of this industry as I can. I still can’t believe it’s a potentially viable career choice, entertainment, and I’m curious about it all.

AJ: Broad City is premiering on Weds. January 22, so I’m obviously so thrilled about that. We’re still working on that right now, in the edit everyday and finding music, etc. I also recently put out another web series called Annie and Side of Fries that is part of a larger show concept about a development built for divorced dads.

Wanna hear more from Ilana and Abbi? Check out their Smart Girls interview with Amy Poehler:

Goodbye 2013!

Saying goodbye is never easy...but I'll be back soon!

Saying goodbye is never easy…but I’ll be back soon!

Wait a second — 2014 is only a little over a week away??? Wow. That means that the 29-Day Giving Challenge ends this Friday! I don’t know about you, but I’ve been loving this year’s challenge even more than the past years’. The experience seems to become richer and even more powerful the more I do it — or maybe it’s a cumulative experience, where I’m feeling the rewards of every giving challenge that I’ve done before. In any case, I hope that you’re enjoying giving just as much as I am. Now, before I wrap up the blog for the year and head out for the holidays, I want to take a moment to recap the challenge giveaway requirements, just so we’re all on the same page.

  • If you haven’t already done so, make sure you share one of your gifts in the comments section of this blog by the end of the day on Friday, December 27th. You can do it at the bottom of any Challenge blog post (including this one), just make sure you get it in by the end of tomorrow evening.
  • Email a list of all of your gifts to events@capesco.com by Friday, January 3rd. You don’t need to go into detail for this list — a brief summary of each gift will do just fine. If you have gifts of a very personal nature, just do your best to get the idea across.
  • To remain eligible to win any of the career coaching prizes, you must also submit a short paragraph detailing why you think you would benefit from them. Simply include this at the bottom of your gift list email.

That’s it! Simple, right? So, during this last week, make sure the challenge doesn’t get lost amongst all of the holiday excitement. Keep it up and “give” it all you got!

Additionally, I hope you take the time to really enjoy yourself as the year comes to an end, and that you’re able to reflect on everything that 2013 has brought you. Taking in everything that you’ve accomplished, and learning from what’s still left to do, is such an invaluable part of getting ready for what’s to come. With that, I’m signing off for the year and I’ll see you in January. Until then, have a wonderful holiday and a very Happy New Year!!

It’s so easy!

This was my big epiphany a few days ago when I was running outside in the rain: It’s SO easy.

I was halfway through my run when a woman who was clearly lost asked me for directions. For a quick moment, I was like: “Ugh! I am in the middle of a great song. I have to stop my music, stop my run, stop my flow…” But, then I did just that. I got out of myself for a moment to help this woman get to where she was going. And you know what? She was so grateful. Plus, it took less than a minute!

Lionel Richie may be "easy like Sunday morning," but the Giving Challenge is even easier!

Lionel Richie may be “easy like Sunday morning,” but the Giving Challenge is even easier!

Does that count for the giving challenge? Hells yeah! I GAVE this woman directions to where she was going. I stepped outside of myself to do something for someone else. These gifts exist in mere moments, but let’s acknowledge them! Of course, there have been other days of the challenge where I look for opportunities to give, like giving a donation, or paying for someone’s meal or coffee. What I am noticing is that, regardless of the size of the gift, I feel like I am giving a little something to myself with each gift I give to someone else. And then my whole day gets even better! Anyone else noticing that too?

Keep sharing your gifts here in the comments section of this blog to help each other along with the challenge. We’re just about two weeks into it now, and this is exactly around the time that the excitement of the challenge might start to wear off and slip to the sidelines if we’re not careful. Just remember that IT’S SO EASY to give one thing, to one person, once a day. Don’t make this challenge too much of a challenge, if you know what I mean ;) Also, if you find that you get to the end of the day and can log more than one gift, that’s great! You can bank those gifts for the days that you may not give anything. And for those of you reading this who may not be participating YET, it’s not too late to get in on the challenge — you just need to give enough to get caught up (but it’s definitely possible!). Most importantly, I hope you continue to enjoy giving and notice how it makes you feel each day when you do something generous for someone else. Nothing quite like it, I say!

So get back to it! And remember: It can take less than a minute to do something that could really make a difference. Can’t wait to hear from more of you soon!!

Capes Coaching’s 29-Day Giving Challenge (2013)

Capes Coaching's 2013 29-Day Giving Challenge

It’s heeeeeere: the official start of the holiday season. From now until the end of the year it’s probably going to be go-go-go for most of you. Places to go; people to see; parties to be partied. Yes, it can be very hectic, but let’s not kid ourselves — it’s an awful lot of fun as well. Plus, before you know it, it’ll all be over and the January chill will be knocking on your door. Maybe we can all try to be in the moment as much as possible through this season so that we can fully appreciate the time spent with family, friends, and loved ones. Oh, and let’s not forget about gifts! If you’re anything like me, giving presents is just as wonderful as receiving them…maybe even more so. But, there’s actually another kind of giving that gets me the MOST excited this time of year — a kind of giving that deals in gestures both large and small, and that gives back in the most amazingly resonant ways. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you probably know that I’m talking about our 29-Day Giving Challenge.

Wow. It doesn’t seem like two(!) entire years have passed since we did our first Giving Challenge, but when I think about it, SO much has happened in the those years (for me, in particular, the biggest occurrence was obviously the birth of my daughter, Zoe, last year). One thing I love about the Giving Challenge is that it offers me a time to reflect on everything in my life — to take stock of all that I have and everything that’s happening around me. It’s such a profound experience that I now look forward to the challenge way before we announce it. Speaking of…let me make this official and say that it gives me great pleasure to announce our 2013 29-Day Giving Challenge!

For those of you who are new to the Challenge, here’s the story in a nutshell: the inspiration came from this NY Times article about Cami Walker, creator of the original 29-Day Giving Challenge. During a particularly difficult time in her life, Ms. Walker took the advice of her spiritual teacher to give something away each day for 29 days. During that time, she journaled daily about her experience, and by the end of the 29 days she noticed a radical shift in her emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual energy – a profound change that had an indescribable affect on her entire life. She’s been sharing her story ever since, inspiring people around the world to take up the torch and embrace their spirit of generosity. We decided to give it a go in 2011 (and again last year), and I can attest to the power of the experience. So, we’re doing it again and we want you to join us.

First, we’re going to exercise our giving muscles by giving away the following (over $1200 in Capes Coaching services/programs!):

  • One (1) 3-Session Private Coaching package (valued at $600), consisting of three 45-minute career coaching sessions with me via telephone
  • One (1) Artists In Action Complete Downloadable Coaching Program (valued at $495); details of the program can be viewed here
  • One (1) Private Coaching session (valued at $200), consisting of one 45-minute career coaching session with me via telephone

That’s right, three lucky participants who complete the challenge will win one of the above. How do you become one of the lucky three? Here are the details:

  • The Capes Coaching 2013 29-Day Giving Challenge begins on Friday, November 29th, and ends on Friday, December 27th.
  • Register here to participate. (You MUST register to be eligible for the giveaway)
  • Each participant gives one thing away each day for the entire 29 days. These “gifts” can take any form and can be as large or small as you like. The idea is to get creative. Physical gifts and money are obvious (and they certainly count here), but think about the less obvious ways to give: a phone call to a friend in need of support, helping someone carry their groceries, an email of encouragement, dog-walking, making dinner, texting a compliment, just listening to someone who needs it, crafting something, offering your seat on the subway/bus – there is no limit to what you can gift. If you can think it, you can do it.
  • Log all of your gifts. Whether you write complete journal entries or just jot down what the gift was and who it was to, keep a log of them because this will be your proof of completing the challenge.
  • If you miss a day or you begin the challenge late: don’t sweat it. We’d like you to make up for the missed days by giving multiple gifts on the remaining days of the challenge. This is where we differ from Ms. Walker’s original “rules,” and we do so because of the giveaway. But, staying in the spirit of things, we don’t want you to overthink this or to stress out about it – this whole challenge is about the spirit of giving, not the prize at the end of the road. Again, even the tiniest gestures count. Think back on your day to see if you actually gave something that you might not have been aware of in the moment.
  • To remain eligible for the giveaway, you must return to this page at least once during the challenge to share with us (in the comments below) one of your gifts. We’d love for you to come back as often as you like – the more examples we get, the better. Just make sure you do it at least one time.
  • Once the challenge ends on December 27th, email a list of all 29 of your gifts to events@capesco.com, along with a short paragraph detailing how you feel you would benefit from winning one of the career coaching prizes we’re giving away. We know that this is a VERY busy time for many of you, so we’re giving you an extra week to email us; however, we MUST receive your email no later than January 3rd, 2013.
  • Sometime during the second week of January, five eligible participants will be chosen as the recipients of the giveaway prizes (based on their emailed paragraph).

Let’s do a Cliff’s Notes version, just for the sake of simplicity:

  • Challenge runs from 11/29/2013 – 12/27/2013.
  • Register here.
  • Give one thing away each day for 29 days.
  • Log your gifts.
  • If you miss a day, or come to the challenge late, make up those missed gifts during the remainder of the challenge.
  • Stop by this page at least once and comment on one of your gifts.
  • Email a list of your 29 gifts and a paragraph about how you feel you would benefit from a coaching package to events@capesco.com no later than 01/03/2014.
  • Feel proud that you completed the challenge, and maybe you’ll hear from us during the second week of January…

As always, I’d love to hear from anyone who wants to share their experience as well, so please don’t be shy – use the comments section below! And, if you know of anyone who you think would be interested in taking part in the challenge, pass along the info – the more people get involved in this, the bigger the difference!

There you have it. Now get out there are start giv…oh, wait. There’s a holiday this week, isn’t there? Let’s not forget about that in all of the giving excitement. So, I want to wish all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy the holiday…remember what you’re thankful for…and then get ready to start giving!