One of the Babes: Adrienne Dawes
Featured this year as one of Austin Monthly's "Women We Love," Adrienne Dawes is nothing short of a creative genius. As a full time employee for the non-profit LifeWorks, Adrienne has somehow managed to squeeze in writing and creating her very own play Denim Doves (a 3-year project), as well as directing Love Me Tinder (a show that has run for about two years), all while managing her own process-focused production company, Heckle Her. Learn more about Adrienne and her creative process below:
Q: What inspired you to start working in the field/Industry? Did you have any role models?
A: I started writing when I was a kid—short stories, poetry, longer fiction pieces. I got into theater via performance poetry . . . Also because film just seemed too expensive of an art form with too many barriers. Theater also felt more welcoming to me as a young artist. Growing up here in Austin, I felt like I could always scrounge together the money for a venue, put up my work and someone would show up (even if it was just my dad). Comedy has always been a thread in my work, but I didn't seriously get into writing or performing until college. I am a huge goof, but very shy and introverted. Writing has always been the best vehicle for me to say all the silly things I want to say. Producing/directing occurred naturally, because my work was constantly getting rejected from things and in the beginning it was really hard to get anyone to work with me. I would get really impatient waiting for people to open doors for me and instead use my Virgo organization and resourceful friends to find cheap/easy ways to get it done.
My role models include playwrights like Suzan Lori Parks, Naomi Iizuka, Sarah Ruhl and Dael Orlandersmith; comediennes like Gilda Radner, Madeleine Kahn, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. I also love anything Richard Ayoade does . . . And Noel Fielding . . . And Chris Morris and Graham Linehan . . . My life in Chicago used to be just Googling random British comedians and buying everything they ever made or appeared in on DVD.
Q: Do you have any tidbits of advice for people with passions, in general?
A: Make friends with people outside of your field/industry. Not only will they show up and support your shit, they will help you be a human person. I am all for the hustle and being ambitious, but there really is something to be said for hanging out with friends that want nothing more than to spend time with you. I also have to say, the funniest people in my life are not comedians. The just give you the truth and what is true is what's funniest/best.
ALSO IMPORTANT: BLOCK OFF TIME ON YOUR CALENDAR TO DO NOTHING. I have to do this, especially after two to three months of non-stop projects, or I will never take a break.
Q: What have been your favorite moments of creativity?
A: Collaboration can sometimes be headache and heartache, but when you approach it with a generous spirit and lots of love it always produces the most interesting and inspired discoveries. I always have to remember to shut up and let go. And trust the process. Trust my collaborators. The first draft will be shit. The first run-through will be messy, but before we get to something polished and coherent, we gotta get through the muck. I think some of my favorite rehearsal moments began with someone saying, "Hey this is a really dumb idea but . . ." I also like the saying "strong and wrong." Like, let's do this STRONG AND WRONG; let's not be afraid to be or look stupid. Some of the smartest, funniest moves I've ever seen have come from actors just committing to the bit, even if it made them look totally stupid.
Q: What have been your most challenging moments in your career, thus far?
A: I fail a lot. Rejection is pretty much a daily occurrence and it always hurts. A big challenge has been to figure my way through that because it will always be a part of my creative life. No matter how "successful" I become, my inner "Editor Bitch" is the voice that screams at me anytime I open up my computer. "You're worthless, you don't know how to write, stop wasting everyone's time!" She's a sneaky, mean bitch. I have to get creative with how I distract her, so I can actually focus on making work. If I listened to her, I would never write and I certainly would never try to share it in a public way. Some weeks, some days this is easier than others. Again, she's a sneaky bitch.
Outside my own head, the challenges in Austin involved in making new work always revolve around money/resources and being able to afford a venue or space to make it work. The growing population brings in some wonderful, new things and great, new people, but it also has driven away some really great artists and shut down all of my favorite arts spaces. In the comedy community, there's not many people of color or women in leading roles, directing, coaching, producing, or teaching. So that means onstage there's very few shows from that highlight or show the perspective of performers of color. Sometimes the biggest challenge feels like just sticking it out and showing up. The most radical thing I can do is show up to comedy and theater performances with my hair down and take up as much space as possible. Remind people, this is what a comedy writer looks like. This is what a playwright and sometimes a director looks like. It shouldn't be a radical thing, but it feels like it is.
Q: What's your day job (if this business isn't your day job)?
A: I work full time in Development for a social services non-profit. I get to interact with incredible staff and clients with amazing stories. I really believe in it's mission to help youth and young families (often from homeless or foster care backgrounds) become self-sufficient. They are very flexible with my schedule which is the only way I can balance both my day and art job(s).
Q: When you're discouraged, what do you run to or away from?
A: I love running away into nature. I don't have many opportunities to unplug and get out of town, but whenever I can, I always appreciate it. Taking a long walk or bike ride also helps me reset. And I love playing music just for fun . . . Karaoke is a part of my regular self care (private rooms > bars).
Your favorite band at the moment: I like too many to name a favorite, but at the moment Anderson Paak's new album is on repeat. Rihanna/Beyonce/Jessie Ware as just the background/white noise/soundtrack of my life.
Your favorite book at the moment: I want to open up Carrie Brownstein's memoir and actually read the words inside it (it's been on my bedside table since it came out).
Your local Austin gem: "Tourist Friends" (aka friends visiting from out of town) always want me to take them to "see the bats." No, boring, gross. I'd rather take people to one of my favorite swimming spots. I have a few that are top-secret, but one I can share (without pissing off my friends) is Krause Springs.