Give Your Friends $$$: Tips by Casey Llewellyn


Casey Llewelyn in a black dress. Photo courtesy of Dia Felix.

“Gather the people around you that you need, treat them with love and give them money, gifts and endless gratitude.”

While finishing her experimental performance in which she lived in 95 Empire at AS220 black-box theater for two weeks, writer, playwright and performer Casey Llewellyn shared with MD her top 5 tips to keep making and nurturing your creativity. Her most recent work, Come in. Be with me. Don’t Touch me. is a process-oriented experiment in writing, collaborating, and making theater. You can even get the sneak peek (without the sneaking) by directly interacting with her journal and performed text. If you like what you see, consider supporting the show’s campaign in the next 60 hours. Casey has developed work at MacDowell and Millay Colonies and studies writing for performance at Brown with Erik Ehn where she is the recipient of the Lucille Lortel Fellowship in Playwriting and is a playwriting instructor. She is currently working on an adaption of Wilder’s Our Town commissioned by The Foundry Theatre to premier in New York in 2014 and her first novella Freeing Our Natural Voices/Freeing this Voice/Talking.

Casey Llewellyn and Sharon Mashihi in "Faces of the Afternoon". Photo courtesy Dia Felix.

Casey Llewellyn and Sharon Mashihi (left to right) in “Faces of the Afternoon”. Photo courtesy Dia Felix.

1. Gather the people around you that you need, treat them with love and give them money, gifts and endless gratitude. You cannot do it alone. Or maybe you can, but not if you’re making theater. Collaboration has been one of the most exciting parts of art-making for me because my brain is forcibly opened up by other people’s material and ideas, and we travel into new territory together in making work and being friends. Collaboration can be messy, emotional, violent, ecstatic and asks everyone for their whole selves. Asking people to be with you in this way is not a light thing. Have their back and show your love in any way you can: material compensation for working with you, special objects and notes, public recognition, and connections. These are just some of the ways! On this project I worked closely with two collaborators for the whole two weeks and over 17 others over the course of the time. That number is open because I include the audience who was often involved in acting or conversation. Every single person present is necessary to the moment of theater.

Amanda Davidson, Caitie Moore, & Sarah Fran Wisby in NeoEmbrace. Photo courtesy of Vanessa Gilbert.

Sarah Fran Wisby, Caitie Moore, Casey Llewellyn, Pilar Gallego, & Amanda Davidson (left to right) in NeoEmbrace . Photo courtesy of Vanessa Gilbert.

2. Continually identify and re-indentify your intention in making the work and evaluate in each moment how or if you are moving toward your intention. There is no way to know or gage how you are doing unless you are in an active relationship to a set intention with a project. If you are not in touch with your own intention, the gages of success are external, did people like it and say it was good? did you get things, other gigs, money, etc.? And getting things has nothing to do with being a good artist. Measuring yourself by this type of success can be really demoralizing and discouraging, and then you have to fight against that! How I think of being a good artist is being close to your art practice.

3. Be always rigorous. Touch always deep. Every little thing matters even when you have no time or money or other things you need, so identify the priorities in terms of the heart of the piece, and do not cut corners getting there. Depth shows. And you can always engage deeply with your project no matter what limitations are present. In fact, limitations are what allow you to more deeply engage your project.

4. A ‘disaster’ is a gift. Harness it and allow your piece to change. If you stay with your process, rather than hanging onto your Idea of what should happen, you will be able to get through any hardship that befalls your production or process. You know that saying about doors closing and windows. What you take with you in your life as an artist is your processes, not your pieces. The pieces end, but your way of working is always an alive process, your life. Anything can be enveloped by this process and nothing can stop it if you allow obstructions to be like rocks in a stream and you are Flowing.

Casey Llewellyn and Ren Evans. Photo Courtesy of Dia Felix.

Casey Llewellyn and Ren Evans. Photo Courtesy of Dia Felix.

5. Framing is most of it! (Context is everything.) The frames we put on things are how we make art. Frames give us a way of reading each moment and the whole piece that allows the audience’s experience of a piece to happen. And for us to be able to create and shape this experience. This exercise in framing your piece happens the moment you begin to talk about it, either in an application or to collaborators or in publicity, and it really informs how people are going to interact with your work and what expectations they will have while they’re doing this. Managing audience expectations is especially important if you are doing a weird piece and want people to be able to find a way into it or appreciate what you’re doing rather than interacting with your piece like it’s something else. I think theater is creating an experience for an audience, and this experience starts when they hear about the show for the first time.

To learn more about Casey Llewelyn and show updates visit

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