Click here for downloadable summary:
To our Dream Big Community:
International Women’s Day Q& A with Our Founder, Lisa Lang
By: Christina Woods
Dream Big is a female-owned company, and all of the different facets of the company, from education to operations, are run by women. So today, on International Women’s Day, we’re talking with our founder, Lisa Lang, about the power of theater and what it means to #beboldforchange.
Q: Who are the female characters in theater that resonate with you?
A: Fiona from Brigadoon is a female character that I have always loved since I was a little girl. “Waitin’ for my Dearie” was my go-to audition song all through High School. I never thought of her in these terms before now, but she is empowered by the steadfast belief that true love is worth waiting for, and thus was never willing to settle for anything less. Though it can be a challenge to be patient and wait for the “right” thing, it is a choice aligned with her integrity. In Brigadoon, this revolves around her love story, which I absolutely resonate with, but it has connections to me in the work that I do and the professional decisions that I make also. If we’re going to do something, we are going to do it “right” and above all, with integrity, no matter what it takes.
My mom shared classical musicals with me when I was young, and I think that through sharing classical musicals, she was able to not only share something she loved in a way that fostered connection and created cherished memories, but it also gave me an expressive way to explore my emotions. I used to sing and dance for hours to my records in our rec room.
One of my favorites today is Katherine Plummer from Newsies. When I’m seeking motivation, I play her song, “Watch What Happens” and belt along with her. My dog loves it! It always gives me such an electric inspiration and reminds me that I can do anything.
I’ve fallen in love with countless female characters over the years, and feel grateful I had the opportunity to express myself through their voices. Embodying other characters increased my ability to understand myself and the experiences I was going through growing up. Still does!
Q: Lisa, can you explain casting as it relates to gender at Dream Big? Parents often ask about how we handle it.
A: Gender doesn’t have a place in what we do. The characters are always universal. Whatever a child connects to is what they can act out and be on stage. Kids appreciate these limitless bounds because it expands their opportunities of what they can play, and not to be cliché, but Dreaming Big is what we believe in and what we do. There are simply no limits.
Q: Building on that, are there male characters that particularly resonate with you?
A: I have favorite male characters for sure, like Oliver, Pippin, or Billy Elliot. I have always been drawn to characters that believe in the impossible and overcome great obstacles to make their dreams a reality. Dreamers. I’ve always been a dreamer.
Q: The hashtag for International Women’s Day is #beboldforchange. How are you bold?
A: Starting Dream Big was bold. I had a full time job, making a stable and secure income and somehow believed going off on my own was going to be easy. I’ve learned a lot since then! Dropping my hours to part time, losing benefits- it was a struggle. I wasn’t making an income from Dream Big for the first five years, and I almost quit after the first year. My next bold decision was to carry on. I remember the day distinctly. It was a week before my mom passed away, and it was a slippery slope of a year. I left the house for a few hours to get some work done and received a grateful response from a parent for an opportunity we had given her daughter. In that moment, I knew I was doing something important and went home to tell my mom. She was no longer able to communicate, but when I told her I decided to keep Dream Big, her lips curved to form a smile. It was a powerful moment and a turning point for me and I was deeply touched to have my mom’s blessing. There has often been uncertainty on the journey, and it’s always a bold decision to keep going. You never know for sure if what you are trying is going to work. In addition to learning new skills along the way, I have found that I need to trust my gut, and the underlying intention must be pure.
My intention to provide this experience for kids is consistently validated as I see my own childhood experience reflected in theirs. Kids grow in our programs, and become bold themselves. Theater for me has been something that gave me confidence, a strong foundation, and a chance to return to the “everything is possible” mentality that I had when I was very young that sometimes gets eroded as we experience the world.
At Dream Big, kids create a show from scratch while collaborating with a group of peers. They overcome their fears to memorize a part and perform on stage. That is a bold and impossible feat in itself, and once you have that under your belt-- that experience of pulling through when things are difficult, and of expressing yourself creatively at the same time—you’re proving to yourself that you can do things you didn’t know you could.
The words “dream big,” spoke to me as I was starting out, but I didn’t know if people would understand the connection between drama classes and this title that represents a growth mindset. It has become abundantly clear over the years that there is an obvious connection for the children we serve as they translate the lessons they learn with us to their daily lives.
I’ve heard it said that, “If you’re doing something for the right reasons, nothing can stop you,” and that has held true in the creation of Dream Big.
Q: Thanks, Lisa!