Live Arts: Gabra Zackman On The 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career in Broadway, Theater or Live Performance Art

An Interview With Savio Clemente

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

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I believe that storytelling has the power to heal and transform the world. I would inspire a movement of art everywhere. Visual, written, performed. Music, dance. That’s what I love about New York… music in the streets, art on the pavement, theater in the parking lots, stories in the trees.

As a part of our series about creating a successful career in theatre, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Gabra Zackman.

Gabra Zackman is a New York City based actress, audiobook narrator, and writer. She has performed off Broadway, in regional theaters, Shakespeare festivals, and on TV. She is an award winning narrator with over 20 years in the industry. Gabra is the author of the Bod Squad Series (Simon and Schuster’s Pocket Books), My Covid Romance and Nice and Naughty (writer and co-producer, Love Bytes Originals). She is a lover of old fashioned romance, handwritten letters, and Old New York. Zackman is currently starring in The Inheritance of a Long Term Fault, written by Mêlisa Annis, playing at Theatre Row (410 W 42nd St, New York, NY) from December 1st-23rd. You can find more information at clutchproductions.org.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up in a small house in the suburbs, where my mom still lives. It’s a dead end street near an elementary school, and I grew up loving the birds and trees and fireflies that were all around. It was very much the 1980’s-90’s, and I have such nostalgia from that time! I was so lucky to have such a close family, and to grow up in a world with a lot of time outdoors. True story: my mother still has a working rotary phone in the house!

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I always loved acting. But I promised myself I would never do it for a living. I took an acting class in high school at HB Studios in the village, and I thought it was fascinating — all the actors spoke about never having a job, so I thought it was a stupid career to go into ☺ I kept trying all kinds of different options but found myself returning to the stage again and again and again, until it was the only life I could imagine.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My high school drama teacher, John Fredricksen, was a brilliant and revolutionary spirit. He instilled a love of theater in me, as well as a love of rebellion. He was a great rabble rouser, and passionate about the arts and the power of art to transform the world. He still comes to see my work today!

You probably have a lot of fascinating experiences. Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career? There have been so many wonderful ones!

Here’s a fun one: there was a performance of Taming of the Shrew up at The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival some years ago, a marvelous production that took place in the 1960’s, where as Kate I burned my bra as an act of defiance (thank you flash paper!) I also attacked Petruchio with a chainsaw ☺ One night it was pouring on the tent (this was outdoors but under a concert rockstar quality tent) and we stopped the show several times. But the rain went on, and in order to get through the show we grabbed a megaphone and passed it around the stage. Pretty wild stuff.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Here’s a favorite story: when recording one of my first audiobooks I wore very crinkly pants and they got in the way of the recording. I actually had to remove my pants in the studio and put a blanket on my lap to get through the book!! I love to joke about a “pants free recording” ☺ I learned to be prepared for anything. And to carry a spare pair of leggings! (this is solid advice for a yoga chick anyway)

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Currently acting in The Inheritance of a Long-Term Fault by Mêlisa Annis with Clutch Productions. It has been the most fascinating and remarkable work I’ve collaborated on in ages. Also just finished recording The Curse of Pietro Houdini by Derek B. Miller for Simon and Schuster and it was a riveting read.

You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of rejection, lack of support, or failure?

I believe there are a million paths to live a creative life, and the best way to do it is to throw a bunch of options at the wall and see what sticks. I made the mistake of believing, when I was young, that there was only one way. My career only opened up when I opened my mind to other possibilities. There will be a lot of rejection, lack of support and failure. My answer: Meditation and a loving community have been my life long gifts.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in the live performance industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Self care is wildly underrated. Take walks in nature. Take baths. Take regular days off. Learn to say no. Learn to listen to your body. Drink more water than you think you need. Dance more. Dance as much as you can.

Thank you for all that. This is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career in Broadway, Theater or Live Performances” and why?

  1. Sense of humor. Everything always goes wrong. Learn to laugh at yourself. Learn to laugh at the world. I once had my headshot put on the Edinburgh Festival Paper’s “Page of Shame.” I loved it. I wanted to frame it. It was brilliant.
  2. Resilience. When you get knocked down, you need to jump back up as soon as you can. Learn to weather rejection with some kind of grace. After a particularly bad audition I cried all the way home. Then I did another one the next day (After eating a pint of ice cream). But… we do what we can ☺
  3. A side hustle that sustains you. Until you find your way to the creative life you dream of, you have to take care of yourself. There’s a way to do it that won’t harm you, and that will use your skills. Find that. Honor that. And thank that side hustle with gratitude when it’s time to say goodbye. OR turn that side hustle into your main attraction.
  4. A life you love. Don’t wait to live a good life. LIVE YOUR LIFE! JOYFULLY. I only ever got cast when I was thinking about something else. One day I auditioned for a show and the AD wanted to call me back for later that afternoon. Without even thinking about it, I said, “can you make it earlier? I have a party to get to.” I still remember the look of amusement on his face. He cast me in that show, and several times thereafter.
  5. A network of support. This includes family, friends, colleagues, and if you are lucky/resilient enough, agents, managers, publicists or other professionals in the business who can work with you, mentor you, guide you, cast you, help you, or provide a shoulder to cry on (or that pint of ice cream). This has been the great gift of my life: a community that always catches me when I fall, and makes me laugh when I bounce.

For the benefit of our readers, could you describe how the skill-sets you need in a theater performance are different than the skill-sets you need for TV or Film?

I always say that theater is so active: its about pursuing goals and getting what you want. TV and film are more receptive: what reads best is the reaction to something, the deep internal experience written upon one’s skin, visceral response. They are almost inverse, and equally complex, equally elusive at times. Same skills, different instruments.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I believe that storytelling has the power to heal and transform the world. I would inspire a movement of art everywhere. Visual, written, performed. Music, dance. That’s what I love about New York… music in the streets, art on the pavement, theater in the parking lots, stories in the trees.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I have this quote tattooed on my back: “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” Joseph Campbell. To be honest, I like some of his other quotes better ☺ But it has guided my whole life… I have tried so deeply to live the life my soul desires. Also anything Isabelle Allende has written. Her writing is one grand life lesson about how to live, and live well.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Patrick Stewart. Huge fan of his work, both on stage as well as on screen, but especially Star Trek. My heart belongs to the Captain.

How can our readers continue to follow your work online?

My website: gabrazackman@gmail.com, or any social media handles with some version of my name or company name: gabracadabranyc and audiobookgoddess on Instagram, gabracadabranyc on TikTok, GabraZackman on Twitter/X, or my company Love Bytes Originals on the web or on social media.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success! Thank you it was my pleasure!

About The Interviewer: Savio P. Clemente coaches cancer survivors to overcome the confusion and gain the clarity needed to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit. He inspires health and wellness seekers to find meaning in the “why” and cultivate resilience in their mindset. Savio is a Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), #1 best-selling author, syndicated columnist, podcaster, stage 3 cancer survivor, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC. He has interviewed notable celebrities and TV personalities and has been featured on Fox News, The Wrap, and has worked with Authority Magazine, Thrive Global, BuzzFeed, Food Network, WW and Bloomberg. Savio has been invited to cover numerous industry events throughout the U.S. and abroad. His mission is to provide clients, listeners, and viewers alike with tangible takeaways on how to lead a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle.

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Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor