100 Quotes Every Theater Producer, Playwright, Director, Actor, etc. Must Read (Updated 2021)

I love a good quote.

They’re what start me up in the morning.  Even more so than coffee.

See, a few years ago I started writing good ones on my whiteboard in the AM so I would stare at them all day long.  They’d keep me going, even when things weren’t going well.  (You can check them out here.)

I’ve put together quite a quote collection since then, and I thought I’d curate all my faves about the theater and put them here with the hope that they’ll inspire all of you Theater Makers out there to. . . well . . . make more theater.

Because as I’ve said, I believe the world is a better place if there is more theater in it.  So I hope just one of these inspires you as they’ve inspired me.

  1. “Movies will make you famous; Television will make you rich; But theatre will make you good.” -Terrence Mann 
  2. “Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.” – Langston Hughes 
  3. “You never know where people are going to turn up in the future…be nice to everybody.” – Robyn Goodman 
  4. “Theater is a verb before it is a noun, an act before it is a place.” – Martha Graham
  5. “Live like you’ll die tomorrow, work like you don’t need the money, and dance like nobody’s watching.” – Bob Fosse 
  6. “Great theatre is about challenging how we think and encouraging us to fantasize about a world we aspire to.” – Willem Dafoe 
  7. “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” – Steve Martin 
  8. “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw 
  9. “The play is not in the words, it’s in you!” – Stella Adler 
  10. “The mission of the theatre, after all, is to change, to raise the consciousness of people to their human possibilities.” – Arthur Miller 

    Want more advice from Broadway mentors? Check out www.castofmentors.com.

  11. “You should feel a flow of joy because you are alive. Your body will feel full of life. That is what you must give from the stage. Your life. No less. That is art: to give all you have.” – Anton Chekhov 
  12. “Nothing in theatre has any meaning before or after. Meaning is now.” – Peter Brook 
  13. “Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it. You really have to ignore all the reasons not to do it and follow your heart.” – Lynne Meadow
  14. “It will never be perfect, but perfect is overrated. Perfect is boring.” – Tina Fey
  15. “To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” – Joseph Chilton Pearce 
  16. “Unless you learn how to be in your head, you’ll never learn how to create.” – Lin-Manuel Miranda 
  17. “You’ve gotta be original. Because if you’re like someone else, what do they need you for?” – Bernadette Peters 
  18. “Overcome the notion that you must be regular. It robs you of the chance to be extraordinary.” – Uta Hagen 
  19.  “Happiness was useless to me.  It was heartache that filled my purse.  What happy man has need of Shakespeare?”  – Jennifer Donnelly 
  20.  “Don’t let form become more important than the substance of your heart and mind. Don’t let commerce determine what you do exclusively.” – Avery Brooks 
  21. “The power of art can break the shackles that bind and divide human beings.” – Daisaku Ikeda 
  22. “Don’t compare your career to anyone else’s. It’s tough when you’re in a business that’s competitive. I was having a difficult time with that in college. Now, I’m having to learn to be patient and be where I am.” – Danielle Brooks 
  23. “We all deal with failure. If you’re lucky enough to have a long career, it’s part of the experience.” – David Henry Hwang 
  24. “The arts make a bridge across this world in ways that nothing else can.” – Julie Andrews 
  25. “You gotta have a dream. If you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?” – Oscar Hammerstein II 
  26. “Everyone has literature inside of them.” – Anna Deavere Smith 
  27. “Success is like failure. It’s how you perceive it. It’s what you do with it, not how you achieve it.” – Stephen Sondheim 
  28. “There isn’t anything I wanted to do that I haven’t. At the same time, there isn’t anything I’ve ever done that I didn’t want to do better.” – Richard Rodgers 
  29. “Always give them the old fire, even when you feel like a squashed cake of ice.” – Ethel Merman 
  30. “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett 
  31. “I believe in serendipity, but I also believe there are times when you have to be the one who lines up everything so it can fall into place.” – Susan Stroman 
  32. “First, think. Second, dream. Third, believe. And finally, dare.” – Walt Disney 
  33. “Everyone deserves to have their story fully told.” – Dominique Morisseau 
  34. “Laughter is much more important than applause. Applause is almost a duty. Laughter is a reward.” – Carol Channing 
  35. “Work hard, do the best you can, don’t ever lose faith in yourself and take no notice of what other people say about you.” – Noel Coward 
  36. “Write what you feel. Write because of that need for expression.” – Dorothy Fields 
  37. “Don’t accept that others know you better than you know yourself.” – Sonia FriedmanLooking for more inspiration from Broadway mentors? Check out www.castofmentors.com.


  38. “If you’re not invited to the party, throw your own!” – Diahann Caroll 
  39. “Don’t expect a pat on the back for merely doing your job, but know that you’ll get one for doing it exceptionally well.” – Lea Salonga 
  40. “We know what we are, but know not what we may be.” – William Shakespeare 
  41. “Don’t try to be anyone else but yourself, because you are singular, and your greatest asset is your individuality.” – Sutton Foster 
  42. “You can’t get it right all the time, but you can try your best. If you’ve done that, all that’s left is to accept your shortcomings and have the courage to try to overcome them.” – Idina Menzel 
  43. “All of the challenges will make you discover things about yourself that you never really knew.” – Cicely Tyson 
  44. “It all starts with self-reflection. And then you have to be brave. You have to figure out how to articulate what your dreams are.” – Glenn Close 
  45. “Not everyone is going to like what you do or what you have to offer; however, if you can’t see yourself doing anything else, and you have the drive and ambition, get the training and go for it.” – Kristin Chenoweth 
  46. “Somewhere in our DNA we know  that stories are out there to help us understand what we’re doing here on this planet.” – Theresa Rebeck 
  47. “You have to stop yourself from even thinking about failing.” – Julie Taymor 
  48. “There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” – Victor Hugo 
  49. “Victories aren’t born on the field. You create them during practice – day in and day out.” – Silvia Pencak 
  50. “Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.” – Paulo Coelho 
  51. “Theater and storytelling has the power to change lives.” – Liesl Tommy 
  52. “Don’t wait for the perfect moment. Take the moment and make it perfect!” – Aryn Kyle 
  53. “If you act brave, you can seem brave, and if you do it enough, you can take yourself into believing you’re brave.” – Kelli O’Hara 
  54. “To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.” – Kurt Vonnegut 
  55. “All you can do is do good work, and do the good work for the sake of doing good work and your evolution as an artist.” – Audra McDonald 
  56. “Do you know what a playwright is? A playwright is someone who lets his guts hang out on the stage.” – Edward Albee 
  57. “You can’t judge your success by someone else’s. You can’t be afraid to fail.” – Patina Miller 
  58. “Don’t listen to anyone who doesn’t know how to dream.” – Liza Minnelli 
  59. “If there’s a story that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison 
  60. “All one needs to write a story is one feeling and four walls.” – Doris Betts 
  61. “Some people dream of success, while other people get up every morning and make it happen.” – Wayne Huizenga 
  62. “Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” – Claude Debussy 
  63. “You’re worse than decent. You’re virtuous.” – Eugene O’Neill 
  64. “He who seeks shall find.” – Sophocles 
  65. “No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else.” – P.T. Barnum 
  66. “If you want to honor your craft and yourself, strive for the nobler instincts.” – Patti LuPone 
  67. “One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you don’t utter.” – James Earl Jones 
  68. “Be yourself… And shoot for the stars. Obviously dreams really do come true.” – Laura Osnes 
  69. “Don’t wait for people to tell you who you are. Show them.” – Laura Benanti 
  70. “You just have to be open and ready, and let it all happen.” – Angela Lansbury 
  71. “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” – Judy Garland 
  72. “You have got to discover you, what you do, and trust it.” – Barbra Streisand 
  73. “At the end of the day, give up your worries and  give thanks for the journey.” – Ben Vereen 
  74. “I am not here to change the world. I am changing the world because I am here.” – Lisa Wilson 
  75. “Time goes on. So whatever you’re going to do. Do it. Do it now. Don’t wait.” – Robert De Niro 
  76. “You never know how far you’re gonna go if you don’t jump.” – Robbie Fairchild 
  77. “You are enough. You are so enough. It’s unbelievable how enough you are.” – Sierra Boggess 
  78. “The path to moments of greatness in your life will be paved, in part, with your spectacular failures.” – Leslie Odom Jr. 
  79. “From a small seed a mighty trunk may grow.” – Aeschylus 
  80. “Everybody has their own path. But with conviction and discipline you can make anything happen.” – Sonya Tayeh 
  81. “Learn how to take the worst situation and let it be the catalyst for our undoing, which is then our transformation.” – Eve Ensler 
  82. “It’s good to remember… so you know you need to do now, so you know that you ain’t got forever just right now…” – Tarell Alvin McCraney 
  83. “Be bold. Envision yourself living a life that you love. Believe, even if you can only muster your faith for just this moment, believe that the sort of life you wish to live is, at this very moment, just waiting for you to summon it up. And when you wish for it, you begin moving toward it, and it, in turn, begins moving toward you.” – Suzan-Lori Parks 
  84. “There are no shortcuts to hard work.” – Adrienne Warren 
  85. “Just make it happen. Figure out a way to do it and work really hard.” – Casey NicholawWant your own Broadway mentor? How about 50? www.castofmentors.com  


  86. “There’s always doubt and fear. If you’re a human being, everybody’s got it.” – Keala Settle 
  87. “The artist’s role is to raise the consciousness of the people. To make them understand life, the world and themselves more completely. That’s how I see it. Otherwise, I don’t know why you do it.” – Amiri Baraka 
  88. “Master your craft, empower yourself, and enjoy the journey.” – Denise Simon 
  89. “If you’re going to go for a thing, there’s no point unless you’re going all the way.” – Cynthia Erivo 
  90. “If you gauge how you’re doing on whether somebody is responding vocally or not, you’re up a creek. You can’t do that; you kind of have to be inside of your work… And tell the story every day. Tell the story. Tell the story. Regardless of how people are responding, tell the story.” – Billy Porter 
  91. “Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are civilization’s radical voice.” – Paul Robeson 
  92. “Have a belief in yourself that is bigger than anyone’s disbelief.” – August Wilson 
  93. “Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.” – James Baldwin 
  94. “He knows not his own strength that has not met adversity.” – Ben Jonson 
  95. “Nobody knows what you want except you. And nobody will be as sorry as you if you don’t get it. Wanting some other way to live is proof enough of deserving it. Having it is hard work, but not having it is sheer hell.” – Lillian Hellman 
  96. “Any form of art is a form of power; it has impact, it can affect change – it can not only move us, it makes us move.” – Ossie Davis 
  97. “Don’t wait for something big to occur. Start where you are, with what you have, and that will always lead you into something greater.” – Norm Lewis 
  98. “In order to attain the impossible, one must attempt the absurd.” – Miguel de Cervantes 
  99. “Never do but one thing at a time, and never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” – Lope de Vega 
  100. “Sometimes you will meet yourself on the road before you have a chance to learn the appropriate greeting. Faced with your own possibilities, the hard part is knowing a speech is not required. All you have to say is yes.” – Pearl Cleage

Check out an entire book featuring 50 of your Broadway mentors, including Kenny Leon, Susan Stroman, Dominique Morisseau, Pasek & Paul, and more. Get your copy today – www.castofmentors.com  

P.S. If you’re ready to speed things up but know you need some help, get on a call with my team. They’ll give you an honest assessment of where you are and if you’re ready to go to the next stage. Click here.

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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.