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The Direction of Your Fears

August 14, 2008 | 7 Comments

Dear Mr. Keillor,
Hi! I'm a senior in high school and I'm planning on following a career in the performing arts. It's always been a dream of mine to be a part of the show. What I would like to know is how could I possibly join Prairie Home Companion someday, if possible? If not, do you have any tips or hints on becoming a truly dynamic performer? Thanks so much.

Rebecca S.

Push yourself in the direction of your fears, Rebecca, and learn to master things that frighten you —shy persons should learn to get up and speak and sing, clumsy people should do gymnastics, juggling, riding a unicycle. (I didn't do it and I regret that—I'd be a better performer if, in addition to writing, I'd studied dance and picked up a musical instrument and learned how to stand on my head.) You are in your prime learning years and they're not to be wasted sitting in a classroom listening to a teacher blather about things you're not motivated to really learn. The listless passive student sitting in a classroom in order to placate his or her parents—a huge waste of time. Grab hold of your ambition and go with it. Get a job as a tour guide, a good place for a performer to start. You master a body of knowledge and you learn to present it face-to-face to a small group of people and you will know immediately if you're engaging them or not and if you aren't, you'll learn how to improve. I live in an old neighborhood of stately piles, many of which have interesting stories, and ever so often a gaggle of tourists goes by, led by a guide—this is a great performance opportunity that might be better for you than a bit role in a show. Or camp counseling—children are a tough audience. And start building your skills—develop your singing with old show songs, learn to tell jokes, take up juggling, master the tango and the samba, take to the flying trapeze, learn to play the tuba, and keep a daily journal of all your doings. Whatever you do, don't sit and wait for the phone to ring. And when you're ready to take over the radio show, let me know. I've got a few more years and then I'm out of here.


Nonsense, Mr. K! No one else is Norwegian or Lutheran enough to fill your shoes.

Brilliant advice!

My thoughts exactly, Diane! Who can replace Garrison Keillor's unique storytelling ability, his warmth, his humor, his Sean Hannity-like vitriolic political bile that NEVER gets old or boorish? I'm an old Democrat, too, and I know that my party is a paragon of virtue while the other guys will be the death of us all. Thanks, Mr. Keillor, for turning Prairie Home Companion into NPR's version of Fox News!

Wonderful advice not only for aspiring performers
but for everyone: conquor your fears, learn to speak a foreign language, play a musical instrument, paint, dance, anything that will make you a more interesting person.

I'm 25 and persuing acting, still aspiring but getting some work performing and teaching. The wisdom you share, GK, is true and humbling. So much of being successful has to do with being good at what you aspire to do and being well liked by those in power to give you the opportunities. Rebecca, all you need to do is remain active, take risks, and keep smiling. Sounds too simple to be true, but good experiences are drawn to those who invite them with positivity. And as brilliant and inspiring as you are, GK, someone will fill your shoes and bring her own unique and delightful flavor. Yet I'm overjoyed to hear we still get you for a few years.

Dear Garison,
I am a BIG fan of the show it makes me & my friends laugh so hard we end up on the floor holding our sides tears come out 1/2 the time! Do the people there whack each other as much as you say , like when Carols friend whacked he guy with the fish on his tie who robed the teens . Cause I have had a lot of ideas and will you come to Knoxville , Tennessee soon ? Thanks

More Great advice from Garrison, what he advises can and will help many people overcome their fears! Fear can hold people back from achieving many things in life.

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