As Broadway Returns, Read Director and Choreographer Susan Stroman’s Advice on Taking a Chance: “What’s the Worst That Can Happen?”

Katie Couric Media

Susan Stroman reflects on advice from her father that launched her career.

At a time when we could all use a little inspiration, we’re looking back at Katie’s 2012 book, The Best Advice I Ever Got. In it, she examines her own experiences from the front lines of the worlds of politics, entertainment, sports, philanthropy, the arts, and business — and collects the ingenious, hard-won insights of countless leaders and visionaries. They tell us how to take risks, follow our passions, cope with criticism, and commit to something greater than ourselves. You’ll find thoughts from everyone from financial guru Suze Orman to Steven Spielberg to Christina Applegate to Maya Angelou.

Couric also reflects on the sage advice that has guided her, from her early days as a desk assistant at ABC to her groundbreaking role as the CBS Evening News‘ first female anchor.

With Broadway re-opening, we thought it would be best to bring back Susan Stroman. Stroman is known for her incredible choreography in Crazy For You, The Producers, and Big Fish on Broadway. She has paved the road for women choreographers and directors in the industry. Her father was the one who gave her a piece of advice that launched her career.

Susan Stroman:

“What’s The Worst That Could Happen?”

As a little girl growing up in Wilmington, Delaware, whenever I found myself in a conundrum I looked to my father for advice. And always he offered the same encouragement: “Ask yourself, what’s the worst that could happen? Someone might tell you no, but there’s no harm in that.” Just take a chance. Ask the question.

When I was struggling to establish myself as a choreographer in New York City, I had an idea, along with my friend Scott Ellis, that we should approach the legendary composing team of John Kander and Fred Ebb about staging a revival of their show Flora the Red Menace. Between us, we had no money and not many credits, but I knew the idea was a good one. We just needed that “One Good Break!” So, with my father’s advice in my ear, we met the famous Kander and Ebb and asked the question. They said yes.

With Kander and Ebb’s blessing, we then took our idea Off-Broadway to the Vineyard Theatre in hopes that the company would produce it. Again, the answer was yes. I’m here because I took that chance, because I knocked on Kander and Ebb’s door and didn’t let the fear of rejection stop me from asking. If you really believe in yourself and your art, then you have to create your own opportunities. You can’t wait for someone else to do it for you.

Our tiny production of Flora the Red Menace opened in 1987. Now, decades later, with many Broadway shows under my belt, I’m once again with Kander and Ebb.

I believe in serendipity, but I also believe there are times when you have to be the one who lines up everything so it can fall into place. So just ask the question. After all, what’s the worst that could happen? “No” isn’t really so bad, and “Yes” might take you places you’d never expect.