12 Unbelievably Inspiring TED Talks for Theatre People

Written by Ashleigh Gardner

December 5, 2017

There’s no doubt about it — sometimes we get a little low. Maybe we’re struggling with our purpose as theatre professionals, or maybe we’re having a hard time with a particular role. But you know what really helps? Listening to differing perspectives that can help us realign our way of thinking about our craft. This is where TED Talks come in. TED Talks are small lectures (both fun and serious) that are given by professionals from all over the world. These lectures are designed to inspire, instruct, and guide audiences to rediscover their lives and the way they look at the world. Below, check out ten videos that continue to inspire theatre artists to keep doing what they’re doing.

If you’re interested in an ENTIRE YOUTUBE PLAYLIST (!) of theatre TED Talks, click here.

1. “My journey from Marine to actor” with Adam Driver

Before he fought in the galactic battles of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Adam Driver was a United States Marine with 1/1 Weapons Company. He tells the story of how and why he became a Marine, the complex transition from soldier to civilian — and Arts in the Armed Forces, his nonprofit that brings theater to the military. Because, as he says: “Self-expression is just as valuable a tool as a rifle on your shoulder.” Followed by a spirited performance of Marco Ramirez’s “I am not Batman” by Jesse J. Perez and Matt Johnson. (Adult language)

2. “How I beat stage fright” with Joe Kowan

Humanity’s fine-tuned sense of fear served us well as a young species, giving us laser focus to avoid being eaten by competing beasts. But it’s less wonderful when that same visceral, body-hijacking sense of fear kicks in in front of 20 folk-music fans at a Tuesday night open-mic. Palms sweat, hands shake, vision blurs, and the brain says RUN: it’s stage fright. In this charming, tuneful little talk, Joe Kowan talks about how he conquered it.

3. “Spider-Man, The Lion King and life on the creative edge” with Julie Taymor

Showing spectacular clips from productions such as Frida, The Tempest and The Lion King, director Julie Taymor describes a life spent immersed in theater and the movies. Filmed right as controversy over her Broadway production of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark was at its peak, she candidly describes the tensions inherent within her creative process, as she strives both to capture the essence of a story–and produce images and experiences unlike anything else.

4. “The essence of acting” with Mirjana Joković

Mirjana Joković was born in Serbia, formerly a part of Yugoslavia. Mirjana started to work professionally as an actor in the movies and at the National Theater in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Soon, she was appearing in numerous television projects and as a lead at the National Theater. Three years later she appeared as a regular character in the TV series Grey Home, which is still known as one of the most distinctive works of television during the former Yugoslavia.

5. “Projection use for the stage” with David Torpey

David Torpey explains why the non-traditional use of projections as set design works for some productions  —  and why traditional set design is just fine for other productions.

6. “Transform Yourself Into a Performer” with Alpin Hong

From Mozart to Mario, Alpin Hong is using his love of music, education, humor, and even video games to change the way you think about the art of performance. Transform yourself into a performer in this series of simple steps and enjoy a hilarious look into the story of Hong’s mashup masterpiece “Twinkle Twinkle Death Star.” Though Hong is a pianist, his lecture also applies to performing in a play.

7. “The authentic actor” with Michael Laskin

Michael Laskin highlights the importance of authenticity as the deciding factor for success not only in show business but in every facet of life.

8. “Lessons In Theatre That Have Nothing to Do With Acting” with Marianne Adams

Why talent doesn’t mean anything if you’re a jerk and other lessons in theatre!

9. “How Theatre Can Change Your Life” with Susan Albert Loewenberg

In her talk, Susan shares the trials and tribulations of forming and developing a theatre company over three decades, illustrating the transformative power of the performing arts.

10. “The life-changing power of live theater” with Andrew Russell

For thousands of years, live theater has captivated the human mind. In this funny and revealing talk, Andrew shows why we respond so strongly to the stage and why recognizing its superpower is more important now than ever.

11. “Playwriting as practice for a more just world” with Meg Sullivan

Meg Sullivan explores the use of playwriting in giving youth a voice and tackling social issues.

Ashleigh Gardner received her AA in Theatre/Drama/Dramatic Arts from Valencia College and her Bachelors Degree in English Literature and Masters Degree in Literary, Cultural, and Textual Studies from the University of Central Florida. She is a playwright and an actor.