An Interview with Sammi Cannold, Forbes (US & Canada 2019) Hollywood & Entertainment

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski
May 17 · 9 min read

(#00020) — Creativity involves heart, soul, limitless thinking, and much more!

You know how they say, “Choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life”.

While this is entirely true, often it is not the case. Most people are stuck in a routine that they don’t enjoy, and often even hate. Some are partially content with their work, due to the benefits or the financial stability it offers them. Other, simply love what they do, and do what they love.

Some of the crucial factors that determine in which group you will fit are dedication, courage, and resilience.

It is not easy to take the necessary steps towards pursuing a career that you’d love, no matter how obvious of a choice it sounds like. But it is not impossible.

You just have to really want it and work for it.

Sammi Cannold is a young female theatre director that is the perfect example of the aforementioned quote. She is a successful and inspiring young woman, that enriches the world with her creativity through the world of theatre.

Due to her resilience and love for the work she does, Sammi managed to become the youngest director in American Repertory Theater history this year, which also got her the recognition by Forbes. She was featured in Forbes's30 under 30 US & Canada 2019: Hollywood & Entertainment”.

She is an artistic soul that has an inspiring story worth sharing, and I hope that you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

Hi Sammi, and welcome to this interview! Thank you for being a part of this mission. Now, can you tell us more about yourself? Who is Sammi Cannold? How and why exactly did you choose your current career path?

Sammi Cannold:

Credits: Michael Kushner

I’m a freelance theater director working mostly in New York and Cambridge, Mass.

I most frequently make musicals, but also spend time in the world of straight plays, ceremonies, circus, and film.

I think I ended up on this path initially because my parents are both in entertainment — my mom produces musicals and my dad produces TV and film, so from a young age, I was exposed to this magical place where people get to tell stories for a living!

I was really entranced by that and got lucky in that I started ‘directing’ (and loved it) when I was a teenager, so by the time I got to college, it was sort of inevitable.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate on being among Forbes 30 under 30! Did you see this coming? What is the single thing you believe most contributed to your success?

Sammi Cannold:

Thank you! I didn’t see it coming at all — I think part of being an artist is making work without the expectation of accolades for it. If you go in expecting everything you make — and by extension you — to be heralded as the best, you only have disappointment ahead of you.

And at the end of the day, it’s not about that to me — it’s about the process of making the work and the impact of it.

That said, it’s of course, an immense honor to be recognized by Forbes in this way. I don’t know their specific reasoning, but I’ve been given a number of opportunities to direct at a high level at a young age (i.e. at the American Repertory Theater and on Ellis Island) and am so tremendously grateful for them.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

As a theater director, you must have creative ideas all the time. Do you think that creativity involves putting your heart and soul into work? Or is it more like letting your mind flow freely? What do you do when you have no ideas?

Sammi Cannold:

All of the above! I think creativity involves heart, soul, limitless thinking, and much more!

Personally, most of my ideas come from listening to music. I tend to make work that takes existing musicals and adapts/re-imagines them in some new way.

Credits: Frank Chen

That new way tends to come when I’m listening to the album of a certain musical and imagining how it would be staged in my head. And then as soon as I have that idea, I have to tell someone, usually my mom — I’m a big sharer. I trust that an idea is good, but I usually have to test it on her and a few trusted friends before pursuing it with full force.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

How hard it is for you to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work? Has your personal life influenced your career in general?

Sammi Cannold:

It’s not hard for me at all because I love this line of work more than I can possibly express.

I think most directors of musicals would say that the line between our personal lives and our careers is very, very blurry — partly because these careers are all consuming but also partly because they require a lot of passion.

There’s this Eva Perón quote that is a little sick, but I love it: “I am nothing; my work is everything.”

To me, who I am as a human is inextricably tied to who I am as an artist. I don’t know who I’d be if I didn’t direct.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

According to you, how important is education? Do all people need to be well educated in order to be successful?

Sammi Cannold:

Credits: James Sherwood

I think it depends on how you define education. I personally don’t think people need to go to college, for example, to be successful — many artists, in particular, don’t.

But I wouldn’t call myself any sort of expert on that subject.

My undergraduate and graduate courses were incredibly useful in what I do now, but I’m sure another route would have worked also.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

Who is your greatest influence? Why? Who is the person you could not have made it without?

Sammi Cannold:

I have three I think — Rachel Chavkin, Diane Paulus, and Diane Borger.

Rachel and Diane P. are both Broadway directors whom I’ve had the great fortune of being an assistant and associate director for. The way they’ve helmed musicals in particular and taught me how to do the same has been deeply inspiring. And then Diane Borger is the Executive Producer of the American Repertory Theater (where Diane Paulus is the Artistic Director) and she’s taught me so much about leadership and artistic vitality.

The three of them have given me the most meaningful opportunities of my life and I am endlessly grateful.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

What is the ultimate message your work passes on? How would you like to be remembered?

Sammi Cannold:

I think the beauty of working in theater is that you don’t have to choose one ultimate message — every piece has a different one, so over the course of your career, you can say a lot of different things in different ways.

Credits: Jason Sherwood

But I tend to be most passionate about work that celebrates powerful women of history, work that confronts injustice and works that talks about climate change.

In terms of how I’d like to be remembered, I’m just 25 so admittedly haven’t totally thought about it yet.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

What do you do for fun? What matters in life? Can you explain what happiness means to you?

Sammi Cannold:

Theater. I think that’s my honest answer; I go see theatre for fun as do most of my colleagues. That’s what I mean by ‘my work is everything.’

But it’s the benefit of working in this industry — when you can both be entertained and moved by something you ostensibly have to see for your job, it’s like winning the jackpot!

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

Let’s say is the year 2025. Where are you by then? What about your work? Do you have any future plans?

Sammi Cannold:

I can’t quite predict how far off any of this might be, but I’d like to direct Broadway musicals, I’d like to direct for Cirque du Soleil, I’d like to direct for film and TV, and one day in the far off future, I’d like to direct an Olympic Opening Ceremony! And many future plans — that’s part of being a freelance artist — you always have to be planning your next project, because it’s not like other industries in which you can hold the same job for 10 years.

Credits: Gretjen Helene

So, in the immediate future, I’m working on a number of readings and workshops of new plays and musicals as well as one revival of an existing musical this fall.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

Finally yet importantly, what are your words of wisdom for someone starting out in your field?

Sammi Cannold:

I hesitate to phrase this as advice, because A. I’m still quite new myself and B. everyone’s experience is different, but my experience has been that it is exceptionally valuable to work in as many different theatrical capacities as you can if directing is where you want to end up.

The role of a director necessarily requires you to have a hand in all the departments that report to you, so the more time that you can spend as a young theatre-maker learning the challenges of different lines of work, the more you’ll be able to have a grasp on the full picture of your production later on.

When I first started working in theater, I stage managed, I acted, I ran crew, I set design, I produced, I lighting designed, and I choreographed — none of those things are what I’m doing now, but all have proven to be enormously helpful in what I’m doing now.

And actually, my one concrete piece of advice to any theater-maker starting out professionally is — please, for the love of god, make a website that represents you and what you do.

For better or worse, so much theatrical hiring and casting happen on the internet now and if you don’t have a way to represent yourself thereupon (for actors, meaning reels with both singing and straight acting on them) then it’s very easy to get passed over.

Credits: Gretjen Helene

Sammi Cannold is an appropriate example that if you are persistent enough, you can have the job you love and get up every morning excited about the day and your accomplishments related to work.

If you have a passion, pursue it. It won't be easy but it will happen eventually.

You need to work hard for the best things in your life. If something is too easy to get, then it won’t bring you long-term joy.

So let this interview be an inspiration to pursue your dreams and finally live your best life, one where Mondays are just another day for having fun and waking up in the morning to go to work isn’t an exhausting obligation for you.

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Bruno (HE) Mirchevski

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The Logician (Dreamer) 👁️ Don’t follow me. I am lost too!😎 Founder of HE Group - (Investor) 📈

The Logician

Don’t follow me. I am lost too!😎

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