5 Lessons Acclaimed Playwright John Cariani Shared with HPU Students

On Thursday, the HPU Department of Theatre and Dance will hold the world premiere of “cul-de-sac,” the new play from acclaimed playwright John Cariani. The four-performance run at HPU’s Pauline Theatre marks the third time Cariani has come to HPU to work with students involved in his plays.

Away from campus, Cariani has been busy. He is one of the stars of the Broadway smash, “Something Rotten,” and his play, “Almost, Maine,” has become the most produced by high schools in North America. Yet, despite his hectic schedule, he enjoys jet-setting from New York City to work with students. When he comes to HPU, he shares with them his thoughts about life on and around a stage.

Here are five lessons students gleaned from Cariani during his recent visit.


  1. Inspiration is perspiration


Broadway actor John Cariani, pictured on the left and leaning forward, works with HPU students on the premier production of his play, “cul-de-sac.”

It’s a natural place to be stuck as a writer or doing anything creative. Don’t be discouraged. Instead, read. Exercise. Go on long runs and long walks and let your mind sort through whatever you’re working on.

Your brain is like a smartphone. Some apps are open and active; others are running in the background. Whatever you’re working on – whether it’s on the front or the backburner at the moment – solutions come to you when you least expect them.

So, take that inspiration, and see it through. And finish. The only way to finish is through perspiration, and everything in life that matters requires perspiration.




  1. Do a little bit every day

Antoine de Saint-Exupery who wrote “The Little Prince” once said, “What saves a person is to take a step. It’s the same step every day. But it must be taken.”

Take a step toward what you’re passionate about every day. Take writing, for example. Make yourself write for two minutes on anything you find on a newsfeed or an issue or what you saw the day before. Over time, those two minutes can add up to 12 hours in a year.

That’s a lot. But that’s work. That’s discipline.


  1. Hang out with people who don’t think like you do—and figure out how to get along with them

Anthony Giardina’s play, “City of Conversation” celebrates the American political system — and how it used to be. People who disagreed figured out how to get along and get the work that needs to be done… done.

Like in the play, people need to figure out how to cross the aisle, so to speak, and get to know each other personally. Hang out with people who don’t think like you do. Understand the other side better. You don’t need to agree with them, but you need to understand where they’re coming from. It might help dilute some of the rage right now — and bring people together.


  1. Immerse yourself in life-long learning

Education needs to be an experience – and it needs to continue way after you graduate. It gives you a chance to ask questions you were once afraid to ask or never even thought about asking.

The more you do that, the more you become comfortable with learning anything that once felt foreign to you. Take that chance. The more you learn, the more you learn about yourself.

You have the ability to make your own life. That makes learning quite the adventure.


  1. Be a team player

Right now, everyone wants the credit. But remember teams are way more powerful than individuals. It’s so much more rewarding to be a part of something that’s bigger than yourself.

Have confidence in who you are, and sell yourself. But don’t spend so much time promoting yourself that you don’t take anything in. Learn to listen. Take in the abilities, achievements and lessons of others. When you do, think about what you’ll find out.

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