Alumna: Stephanie Roberts

At Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre, where I received my MFA, we sweat. A lot. After an attempt to be the ocean, or an eagle, or a forest fire, we would wait, out-of-breath and spent, for the critique. It usually went something like this: “Our proposal of the theatre is that it has the power to move the world; Effort, Risk, Momentum, Joy!” It was these critiques that kept me going and, as a generative theatre artist, that still keep me going in this uncertain, and often-undervalued profession.

Effort, Risk, Momentum, Joy, a credo proposed by Dell’Arte founder Carlo Mazzone-Clementi, has guided me not only in creating and teaching theatre, but in promoting myself as a professional artist.


“I’m very lucky.” I say that a lot when talking about my job as an Associate Professor at UMKC Theatre Department. I teach Clown, Commedia, Mask —all of the things that I love—and I’m grateful. And yet…I worked damn hard to get this job! It was the effort of two degrees, countless classes and workshops, years of performing, directing, teaching and volunteering my time, and pages of applications, resumes, and letters of interest. Yes, there have been serendipitous events that have brought me here, but those moments would not have happened without the effort and discipline required of the profession. As baseball great, Don Sutton said: “Luck is the result of busting your fanny.”


“I hate networking”. I look back at how many times I have said or thought this. What I really meant was: “I fear networking”. It took years for me to realize that networking doesn’t have to mean being pushy, self-serving, and forcing myself on others. It sounds absurdly simple, but I finally got it when a friend said to me: “They’re just PEOPLE!” Putting it in this perspective has made the risk less risky. I go to theatre events that interest me, I introduce myself to people who make theatre, and I tell them about my own. In this way I’ve changed my vocabulary and turned “Networking” into “Building My Community”. 


In physical theatre one uses the momentum of the body to facilitate a dynamic action with ease. I’ve found that producing and promoting oneself is often a matter of giving in to the momentum of the project. Here’s an example: Several years ago I had an idea for a theatrical band. I told a colleague about this idea, who emailed a Conservatory of Music professor, who posted the idea on an email group, which led to me finding two musicians. I kept talking about the project, which led to more band members, which led to jam sessions, which led to rehearsals, which led to a gig, which led to recording our songs, which led to a MySpace page, which led to more gigs, which led to more exposure…and so on. 


As my students are sweating with the effort of their work I remind them to smile. And in an instant the work becomes…lighter. As I write press releases, and create facebook groups, and battle with deadlines and schedules and unexpected events, I sometimes look above my desk at a photograph of my mentor. He is naked, covered in white (butoh-style), mouth agape, eyes wide open, and wearing a huge red nose. I am reminded that this, all of this, is taken on for the sake of joy. The joy in creating and sharing my work. A joy that is the result of the effort, risk, and momentum of the creative act.

Stephanie Roberts (MFA ’06) reflections on Dell’Arte’s “Effort, Risk, Momentum, Joy” initially appeared in "Artistinckc" introducing Kansas City artists: Used by permission. 

Stephanie Roberts

Stephanie Roberts