Writers Tori Keenan-Zelt ’06 and Alison Rich ’09 offer advice on careers in theater, TV and writing.
For two writerly alums, the path to success has started at the juncture of artistic passion and belief in one's own work. To that end, Alison Rich ‘09 and Tori Keenan-Zelt ‘06 will participate in a Q&A about careers in writing for the stage and screen, 4 p.m. Oct. 2 at the Office for Career Services Conference Center at 54 Dunster Street. Hosted by Learning From Performers and the OCS, the event brings together two creative individuals with similar messages about creating art that is, first and foremost, yours.
While she remembers being “Ms. Theater Girl” as an undergraduate, Rich – who performs with the Upright Citizens Brigade, has written for SNL and Billy on the Street and stars in the Hulu series Resident Advisors – dedicated herself to improv and comedy after graduating and moving to New York. While her resume is impressive, she isn’t quick to tout those accomplishments.
“The biggest things that I’m proud of since graduating are the things that I’ve created myself,” she says. For instance: her oddball one-woman online series The Body Is Disgusting. Rich stresses that in any artistic endeavor, it is important to have “a balance between going out there and seeing how the world responds to you but then also saying ‘I’m going to carve out a niche where I can just do my own thing.’”
Keenan-Zelt ‘06 agrees.
“Figure out what you need to make your art well, and get it,” she says. “Figure out who you want to work with, and then find ways to work with them.”
A self-described “playwright, etc.” says that when she got to Harvard, she “had the impression that pursuing a professional life as an artist wasn’t a responsible thing to do.” In fact, the writer began her career teaching middle school and went to graduate school in Singapore before committing to theater.
Since then, Keenan-Zelt’s career has taken off. She has had dozens of plays and screenplays performed and published, is founding co-artistic director of Panglossian Productions and is working on other projects, including a web series about “a badass 80-year-old woman,” and a play “a little bit about gentrification and a little bit about living with your in-laws if they weren’t your in-laws.” Keenan-Zelt hopes undergrads will work on their art with passion and a plan. “Be brave,” she says. “Be patient. Be unsatisfied.”
This project is supported by the Sophie H. and Roger L. Clifton Young Women Artists’ Fund.