Monday, February 25, 2013

Dedicate Your Work

Daniel Pink concludes his brilliant book A Whole New Mind with a suggestion from Naomi Epel.  Epel writes, “I once heard Danny Glover say that he dedicates every performance to someone – it might be Nelson Mandela or the old man who guards the stage door – but he is always working for someone other than himself.  This focus gives his acting purpose and makes his work rich.”
Pink adds, “You can do the same.  Dedicate your own work – a presentation, a sales call, a report – to someone you admire or who matters in your life.  You can infuse your work with purpose and meaning when you think of it as a gift.”
Recently I encouraged my acting students to think about whom they might dedicate their work to.  Scene work on a given day, their work for the semester, anything else which helps inspire gift giving in their work. 
Actors work hard to discover within themselves, from their own lives, experiences which will make a character they play believable, compelling, and above all, truthful.  That work can sometimes be painfully difficult, reaching back to agony most of us prefer to deny, forget, and leave behind by any means possible.  That painful sharing is an actor’s gift to the story they are helping to tell and to the audience they are telling the story to. 
Tonight, my wonderfully gifted daughter, Elizabeth Hope Williams, opens on stage in a new show in Chicago, CCX.  You can go here to learn more about the show and Elizabeth: .  Read Elizabeth’s biography.  You’ll see that she has chosen to dedicate her performance to her brother, William.  You need to know that William died barely three months ago, as a result of a heroin overdose.  You need to know that Elizabeth will be portraying a heroin addict. You need to know, or at least be reminded, that as a family we made a pledge at William’s memorial service:  We promise to do everything in our power to educate and inform people about drug abuse and its prevention, to provide ever more enlightened treatment for addicts, to help make treatment options for addicts more readily available, and to remove the stain of shame surrounding this disease.”
Finally, you must know how proud I am of Elizabeth’s courage, generosity, and artistry.  She is, as I said above, wonderfully gifted.  For the next five weeks she dedicates a wonderful gift to our William.  Art from pain.  Thank you Elizabeth.          


  1. A very thoughtful post... I'm sure Elizabeth will be terrific.

  2. My dear friend Sean Connor told me the following. Hadn't known this before.

    "At every Zen meditation there is an opportunity to dedicate the work to someone. An ancient practice."

  3. Beautiful. John Sutton passed this on to me. He's been watching a crew of amazingly dedicated actors put together a razor-edged production of Macbeth, and taking beautiful photos every night. I dedicate this post to him, and your daughter Elizabeth.

  4. Thank you to both Johns. Enjoy the Scottish play. I will forward this to Elizabeth.

  5. Well, I'm new to this, so am hoping I get this right this time. I just wrote something a few minutes ago but it seems to have drifted off into cyber space.

    First of all, I really like this idea of dedicating one's work. And I find it wonderful that Elizabeth is dedicating her work to William. And she will shine.

    toi toi toi as we say over here on the banks of the Danube.

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  8. Bill, I'm sorry to hear about the loss of your son. I'm also encouraged to see how you and your daughter Elizabeth have used this tragedy as a catalyst to help others facing this mental illness. One of our wonderful daughters has been struggling for many years with an opioid addiction. My wife and I are very proud of how far Hanna has come in creating a new life with her husband and daughter. We all need to make the same pledge that you and your family have made. There is a real need for enlightened treatment for this devastating disease. Rick Davidson

  9. I just this morning told one of my friends that life is about finding your own gifts and then giving them to the world -- Brava Elizabeth!!!! We love you all. Anne, Isobel and Cannon xoxoxoxoxo