We had the good fortune of connecting with Mary Candler and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mary, what’s the most important lesson your business/career has taught you?
Your vision is only as successful as the people you bring in and surround yourself with. I made a mistake early on of doing everything – because I felt uncomfortable asking for help. But asking for help, getting advice, and even letting people take on parts of the work actually build a community. If you ask for a favor, and someone gives it, they are actually investing in you – even if it’s just fulfilling a silly task like running to the printer or transporting a set piece. The more goodwill investors you have, the stronger your business will be.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Who I am as an artist has evolved in such a way, that I’m not sure my 22-year-old self would recognize me. But I think she’d be proud.
I started my career as an actor. I love being on stage, I love bringing the words of great classics to life, and I love singing my heart out. For me, though, the wear and tear of the audition scene got to me. I felt like I had no agency in my own life, waiting for other folks to cast me. And when I did get cast, I was often disappointed in the experiences.
I didn’t intend to start a theatre company in the most oversaturated marketplace in the United States. But I hungered for a space where actors had more agency in their work and where a nurturing community of artists could be developed over time. I also wanted a space where women had leadership roles – which seemed suspiciously lacking elsewhere in 2012.
This company I never intended to start has now grown into an organization with an incredible ensemble of actors and artists with deep and long-lasting artistic relationships. It’s also a group that fights boldly for gender equity in the classics–primarily through our Expand the Canon initiative (www.expandthecanon.com).
Have you ever noticed that all the “classics” are by dead white men? We did – and it’s absurd. Expand the Canon demands space in the classics for excellent plays by a diverse set of women writers. And we do it by finding all of those forgotten plays and advocating for the best of them to be produced on stages around the world.
It took a while (quite a while) from inception to…making a meaningful impact. There were many tiny, challenging steps before feeling like this company really had a voice in this crowded landscape. But if you keep your eyes on the path, each step has its own value and meaning. Just keep walking.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I barely remember the city before COVID… but… Go sailing in the New York Harbor for the best view of the statue of liberty. Have a picnic lunch in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Eat dinner at Llama Inn in Williamsburg. Check out Slavic Soul Party in Park Slope. Spend the day at the Transit Museum – checking out subway cars over the years. Spend the next day at Jacob Riis beach — come back home in time to grab a pizza at Robertas.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
TideRisers is a group that came into my life at the perfect time. I was transitioning from life as a co-Artistic director of Hedgepig Ensemble Theatre to becoming a single leader and finding my leadership style. TideRisers is a mentorship group for women. A place where you can transparently share what is going on with you, listen to folks mirror back what they are hearing, seek advice, and take the time to figure out how to show up and lead by your values. They helped me overcome imposter syndrome and really own and trust my path.
Photo credit: Allison Stock