Actors Studio Drama School

Actors Studio Drama School

"Hire the right people and then let them do their job."

-Shawn Lewis (via Sidney Lumet)

The Actors Studio Drama School presents its annual Repertory Season at Pace University.

Designed to introduce the graduating class to the industry, the ASDS Repertory Season also offers New York audiences six weeks of exciting and challenging theatre in professional productions that are FREE to the public!

We were fortunate to "get creative" with the Executive Director, Shawn Lewis, in a seminar, design collaboration and exclusive interview. Read about her history, experience and advice below!


What's your history with ASDS and the Repertory Season? 

Shawn Lewis (center) with James Lipton and other ASDS family.

My mentor, Tony Walton, created an amazing class called "Creative Collaboration" at the Actors Studio Drama School. Shortly after graduating from NYU, I started team teaching this class with Tony. At the same time, he suggested me as set designer for the ASDS Repertory Season. 

Fast forward and I'm now full-time faculty at Actors Studio Drama School and "Creative Collaboration" is one of my favorite classes. I became the Executive Director of the ASDS Repertory Season in 2009, when ASDS moved to Pace University. I equally love both my jobs!

I’ve contemplated submitting to the Guinness Book of World Records—I've designed more than 1,200 plays for ASDS Rep! I pinch myself on my way to work to remind myself that my career isn’t a dream. I have a mantra.... 

 
This is the life you dreamed of, now honor the dream.
— Shawn Lewis
 

 

Incredible! Outside of ASDS, what are you currently working on or towards?

I'm raising my twin 8-year-olds, renovating my 130-year-old brownstone and working on a book! 

 

Wow! Sounds easy enough, Shawn. So... what do you love about the digital era we live in?

I love the immediate satisfaction of getting information. With the work I do as a set designer, I research new things all of the time. Now, I find that I will allow myself to go “off topic” and indulge my curiosity—even when pressured with a deadline. I also love how easy it is to manage projects, keep a paper trail, and communicate efficiently. 

 

Agreed! Okay, but, what do you hate about the digital era?

It annoys me when I meet up with friends and they repeatedly check their phones. What could be so important? I feel like people don’t live in the moment as much as they did before smart phones.   

 

What’s your favorite place in NYC?

Oy! That’s a tough question. Aside from my home, I guess I would choose the Reading Room at the New York Public Library. Not only is it beautiful, but it feels so pregnant with possibilities.

 

 

What's your advice to aspiring theatre artists?

This was Tony Walton’s advice when he was teaching and I agree...

 
If there’s anything else you can think of doing other than being a theater artist, then do that.

But if being a theater artist is truly the only thing you can imagine doing—pursue it with everything you’ve got.
— Tony Walton
 

 

What’s your advice to other professors/executive directors?

As executive director: Listen to your staff.

Be VERY in touch with each aspect of the company so that you can understand the needs of the whole. I’ll add advice that Sidney Lumet once gave me...

 
Hire the right people and then let them do their job.
— Sidney Lumet
 

As a professor: Stay fresh.

I spend my summers thinking of new projects and assignments. I revamp my syllabus every year and I look for ways to communicate ideas differently so that I stay excited and engaged.  

 

Why did you choose to “get creative” with us?

I learned about you through director Ken Urso, researched you, and invited you to speak in my Creative Collaboration class. I loved your energy and intelligence and knew that you would be the perfect fit for me and the site I wanted built. You are tenacious, intelligent, extremely knowledgeable and fun! Can’t forget that part. 

 

Tony, Shawn and Creative Collaboration!

 

How would you describe the process/experience of our collaboration?

Fantastic! You were able to grasp the needs for the website in several conversations, and then you framed the site to perfectly match those needs. Plus, you added to it in ways I hadn’t been able to anticipate. You did everything you pitched to me and I felt like it was an effortless process. I love how you communicate so clearly. I never walked away from a meeting with the worry that you didn’t "get" an important point that I had stressed. It was an ideal collaboration. 

 

What responses or results have you received from your new website?

People love it! They tell me that it looks fresh and stylish. It moves really well. It’s just the right amount of information. It represents the quality of the work we do with the ASDS Rep Season. 

 

Tony Howell is a digital strategist dedicated to helping you design your future—creating offline success from your online presence.