Defining Success and Finding a Way Back to Then

by Northlight Theatre
from Kirstin Franklin, Assistant Director of [title of show]

One of my earliest memories as a child was performing a ballet to Copland’s Appalachian Spring with my sister in our family room. I remember carefully selecting a pink hand-me-down leotard for the performance and holding back giggles as I pretended to prance like a deer at the opening of our highly theatrical choreography. Despite the lack of audience (only mom and dad in attendance) we pulled off a memorable performance with carefree confidence and charm. Thinking back, I wish I could find a way to replicate that same self-assurance into my adult life.

As a theatre artist I find it is so easy to get down on myself about my own career…why am I not further along? Why can’t I sing like her? Why didn’t I get a callback? why? why? why?

In these moments of self deprecation I’ve learned it’s best to re-evaluate my idea of success in the way Hunter and Jeff do with [title of show]‘s clever lyric “I’d rather be nine people’s favorite thing, than a hundred people’s ninth favorite thing.” And I think it is important to remind myself that I’m incredibly lucky to be doing what I love for a living.

When I think back to that first performance, as my sister and I took our final bow for our applauding audience of two, I remember feeling complete in that fleeting moment. Who would have imagined that 26+ years later I would be here, still performing, still directing, still creating? I think this is exactly why I get so choked up every time I hear Heidi (performed by Christine Sherril) soar through the gorgeous balled “A Way Back to Then” because I have done just that…I’ve found my way back to then. I am living my dreams, doing what I have always wanted to do. I’m “that little girl with her wings unfurled flying again. Back in the back yard dancing, I found a way back to then.”   

[title of show] is about so many things but at the heart it’s about staying true to yourself, honoring your passions, taking risks and having fun with the people you care about. If Hunter and Jeff had given in to the pressures of creating a typical broadway musical, it never would have become the relatable heartfelt success that it was/is.

But this isn’t just a show about finding the road to success, its about who is along for that ride. [title of show] invites its audience to get to know the people responsible for the creation of the very show we are watching…and that is something truly special. We get to see the familial nature of creating theatre, and how through every show a new family is born… and as a family unit we breathe life into art; that to me, is the most rewarding thing about working in theatre.  After all, as a friend recently posted on Facebook, “success is doing what you love with the people you love.”  I couldn’t agree more…so, here’s to our success, and here’s to all of my theatre friends old and new.


Kirstin Franklin is the assistant director of [title of show], a company member of Chicago’s Akvavit Theatre Company and a MFA graduate of the FSU/Asolo Conservatory. You can learn more about Kirstin on her website: