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On the other end of an arts education: me vs. David Mamet - Rhiannon Bird Lewis

Updated: Nov 29, 2021

I’m sat in a café surrounded by ridiculously infantile chairs, young professionals, and oat-milk lattes. Lorries and electric scooters are flashing by, thinly veiled by a screen of the vines that everyone inexplicably learned how to keep alive over lockdown (and simply can’t resist propagating). It’s my first go at working at a café since then, and after wrestling with finance for 10 mins I’m already smug, the words ‘young professional’ singing in my mind, unifying me with the velvet-coat clad, turmeric-shot brandishing vegan career people that surround me.

When it comes down to it however, I graduated from drama school this year and the money isn’t exactly pouring in- married with the curated successes that flash up constantly on social media, it is tricky to call oneself a blossoming creative without feeling the need to bang one’s head against the wall. David Mamet said that a “formal education for the player [and for the creative] is not only useless, but harmful” and one must avoid “the real or imagined security of some invisible hierarchy” or trying to please some invisible authority to escape the alluring throes of the dreaded ‘real job’. David, I thank you dearly for your advice but (with my degree clutched in shaking hands) ask if you would kindly fuck off. I don’t feel like a particularly revolutionary artist raging against the system when I’m in my pyjamas at 4pm watching Cobra Kai on Netflix for the third time whilst simultaneously flaunting my wares to agents (in emails they don’t reply to). Or that I’m defying invisible authoritarian structures whilst I’m perusing perfectly manicured artistic career trajectories whilst eating chocolate spread and crying (invariably with make-up on). Networking? Try ‘Notworking’.

However. Amid this quagmire there is hope for the lowly arts graduate- for the artistic individual in general. We are many and all united in our toil under the arid climate that the government has laid down (thanks for the heads up, David). Forget laid down and try ‘attempted to erase us altogether’. The sheer volume of us shows that surely, we’re onto something. Not only that but there are people of all kinds that want to (and can!) call themselves artists- at Wicked Women I am one graduate in a diverse group of women that come from both years down the line of their career, those in training, and those starting out. It becomes clear there is a sheer volume of people (from all different backgrounds, forget some silly degree to hide behind) that want to be creative, aside which Wicked Women is an oasis for a creative bunch of women to shelter, recharge and grow. Being creative is an inherent part of who we are as people, as Julia Cameron said- everyone has the capacity to be creative and “many gifted artists languish for years” in the wake of “darker critical powers”. The unnecessary blocks and criticism can be shoved into any person’s life like an invisible bollard, and fester like the overflowing pizza boxes in the periphery of my fruit-fly ridden kitchen- these are things that come to us all at some point. It is only these blocks that prevent us from creativity, not the lack of some God-given talent or holiness that only some perfect model-come-actor-come-charity-raising goddess on Instagram has been graced with (she probably has her Netflix days too.)

So, to those of us that feel that they want to create- please do. Please do so and feel free to make as many mistakes as possible- maybe a pyjama day watching Netflix with a spoon of (Aldi’s finest) chocolate spread is just part of your process (although maybe that’s not one to flaunt to the clamouring agents/Karens that cloud the Twitter-sphere).

To conclude? Down with the government and institutionalisation- be free in your creativity (you’re absolutely right, David Mamet, darling, you really are).


CAMERON, JULIA (1995) The Artist's Way. London: Pan Macmillan.

MAMET, DAVID (1999), True and False. New York: Random House. SANFORD MEISNER and DENNIS LONGWELL

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