Story and Horse
with Hilary Adams
Introduce yourself.
My life has always been a creative one. I’m a long-time professional theatre director, and have had the great fortune of working alongside incredible collaborators. As we co-created stories together, I saw first hand how transformative the creative process was, not only for bringing the invisible into the world, but also as a form of healing for individuals and communities. Because I was immersed in the performative arts, it was quite awhile before I stepped outside of that world and discovered, much to my surprise, that many people either said they were not creative, or were totally stuck about how to go about being creative.
Creativity is our first language. We are born with creative instincts and naturally express creatively as we learn about our environment, how the world works and our place in it. Connection with creativity is connection with the larger universe. It is the way that we, the stars, fellow animals and everything else are all entwined, the specifics of which science and art continue to unravel and investigate. We live inside a huge, participatory, glorious mystery, and our creativity is a way of saying “yes” to joining in that continuous unfolding dance of interaction.

When a person is disconnected from their creativity they are disconnected from life’s energy. They are denying themselves the potential for bringing gifts to this world that only they could imagine, and they, and the world, are diminished by this denial. I am passionate about supporting, encouraging and celebrating people’s creativity and I believe that each person needs to be living in a creative life. If someone has been cut off from their creativity, I want to support the repair and healing of that disconnection.

Along with high-level theatrical creation, including on Broadway, I have two master’s degrees. The first is in Applied Theatre, which intentionally activates theatre’s transformational potential in education, and for personal and community growth and healing. The second master’s is in Ethical Leadership, which focuses on how one’s values as a leader directly affects those you serve and the structures that you build to work within. I’m also a certified Equine Gestalt Coach, working with horses as co-coaches in a wholistic, dialectical, physicalized form of personal coaching. Naturally I also use creativity as a focal point of my work as a coach, both with and without horses! I custom design coaching for my delightful out-of-the-box clients who tend to like to forge their own paths, and who embrace their creative lives with gusto and determination.

I founded Story and Horse as a home for creative people, where they can find encouragement, support and community. The company is named for the intersection of two things I love. It also is symbolic of the intersection of our lived, embodied story, and our wild, creative spirit, our horse-nature. Our creativity emerges from this place of interaction, between the story and the spirit, the invisible and visible.

The Story and Horse podcast is a part of the offerings, both to expand awareness of my creative guests, and to be an inspiration for listeners to jump into their own creativity. Story and Horse also offers opportunities, in person and virtual, to work with horses as co-coaches, guides and teachers. The work is on the ground, not riding, and no prior horse experience is needed.

Things I love in addition to exploring creativity: animals, being a cat mom to the amazing Frankie, a good strong cup of tea or coffee, wandering around new cities or forests, and riding horses.

"Empowering Creative peoples to live a life they love"

- Hilary Adams

Share an experience that has shaped who you are today.
Quite a long time ago now, I had an experience that, looking back, I can see had a foundational, lasting impact on my passion for supporting and encouraging creativity everywhere I go. This is the story of that day.

It was raining. I mean, really raining. This was not new. It was Southern Hampshire, England, and rain was often the weather order of the day. The van was packed with the set, costumes, lighting and sound equipment, props, and, oh, the actors too! All five of them. We had packed everything except the actors the night before during a brief dry spell, so the equipment wasn’t soggy or puddling. It was also rather chilly in the early Spring, and there was a smell of clean rain, mixed with damp wooly sweaters, recently painted wood, and various van smells that were hard to identify but always around, reassuringly familiar. This was a small scale touring children’s theatre operation, and James, the director/artistic director and many other things, and me, an intern from the US who was willing to do anything even if I was totally making it up, were running the company together for several months.

The day I arrived the office manager/many other things had just quit. She walked out and, a short while later, I walked in. Jet lagged, rather chilly, and a bit confused but totally willing, I knocked at the outside door to the theatre’s office. Receiving no answer, I tentatively turned the handle and, discovering it unlocked, I pushed the creaky, redish wooden door open and stepped inside. There was a set of stairs leading upwards and no other option, so I proceed to climb the worn, wooden steps. This was a cautious climbing, not sure of protocol or if I was even in the right place. Later, these steps would be old friends, and I would take them two at a time, frequently traveling between the office and theatre space around the other side of the building.

When I arrived at the landing I saw an opening into an office space, filled with scripts, books, telephones, one computer (this was a long time ago!), filing cabinets, desks, chairs - it looked welcoming and like many other theatre offices I’d seen. Seated at a big desk on one side a man was hanging up a phone, looking somewhat harried but with an upbeat energy. This was James, my new boss, director and brave person who had been willing to take on a collage student, sight unseen, from America.

After introducing ourselves, James asked me if I was up for answering calls and sundry other things, I said sure, he gave me a big smile and headed back downstairs to direct, leaving me unexpectedly in charge of a theatre office that I knew very little about. I was delighted. I love a good challenge! That’s how our relationship started, and it was wonderfully improvisational and collaborative from that moment on. James also introduced me to the importance of real tea breaks with the whole team every afternoon. The theatre I’d done up to this point rarely had any breaks, and I thought this intentional pause was a splendid addition to the process. Those moments in a small, patched together kitchen with an electric kettle humming, tea smell in the air, James, the actors, technicians and me hanging out on old, scarred wooden chairs around an equally aged table with the ever-present rain on the windows was one of the first times I really felt fully present, and a part of a theatrical community, a creative home. Maybe that’s why I always reach for tea now when I am feeling a need to jumpstart creativity!

So, back to the van. This was awhile after I’d arrived and a children’s show had been rehearsed, tech’d and was ready to go. The company brought theatre to villages that would have little to no other theatre opportunities during the year, especially for children and their families. We drove a van to our audiences, set up in whatever spaces were available, from libraries, to small town halls, to barns. Today’s adventure was going to be in a barn.

We brought all of the equipment with us, down to electrical cords and tape. The actors were good natured, brilliant artists who were game for the less-than-perfect conditions we worked in. After everything was loaded, a thermos of tea handed back to the actors, I settled into the passenger seat and James took the wheel. Off we went into the rain, ready to share theatre with the world.

That particular trip we encountered sheep. This wasn’t unusual; sheep herds often delayed our arrival, so much so we built the possibility into the schedule. This particular sodden herd of woolliness was not moving particularly fast, and we had time to eat some snacks and drink tea as we slowly rolled behind the herd, dogs and their humans, all of whom didn't seem to even notice the rain coming down. We weren’t going to be late, and snacking was enjoyable. The actors and James told theatrical war stories and I listened, thinking that there was absolutely nothing better in the world than being in that van, at that moment, with sheep ahead, friends and colleagues around, fun stories abounding and all of what we needed to tell quality theatre packed in around us.
When the sheep parade finally got to a turn off we moved forward into normal speed, it wasn’t long before we arrived at a big wooden barn-like structure that had been, in part, converted into what looked like a sort of hall, a gathering place for the village. We were greeted by many helpful people, and we gratefully accepted their load-in assistance, with James directing what goes where. The actors were taken under the wing of a collection of other helpful people, who led them toward a back entrance where they could get easily to rooms for dressing. It was all hands on deck for putting all of the equipment up. We didn’t do a stage, per se, but we did have an elevated section and a whole lot of cabling to run. Actors helped too. More tea and snacks were brought out by the future audience members. Kids were running around. It was informal, yet professional, a learning opportunity for all of us. It was so fun that the community was there to help put together the structure in which we would then transport ourselves to a far away land, once upon a time.
One of my jobs during load ins was running cables. In this case, we had an electrical challenge. There wasn’t enough electricity available in the barn. The farmer whose land we were on, told me we could run a cable through the small pasture to another structure next door that had electric available. After checking with James that the cable was, indeed, waterproof, I went with the farmer to run the cable. It wasn’t a very far way between where we were and the other little building, but there was a pasture of grass, mostly mud at this point, in between. I had boots on; there was no way to exist without rain boots, and the farmer helped thread the cable through the fence, then opened the gate so we could walk the short way. As soon as he closed the gate and we started sloshing our way, he loudly said, “What are you doing here???” I turned to see to whom he was talking.

Standing there was a bull. A full fledged bull. He’d apparently come around the side of the building we were heading to, to see who had entered his domain. He didn’t look happy, although I wasn’t sure I knew what a happy bull looked like. The farmer said something that sounded like a curse and, while taking off his hat, told me to keep going and he’d distract him. Not in a place to argue, and figuring the farmer was the expert on this issue, I carefully kept moving forward through the slippery, boot-sucking mud, holding the cable, unwinding it as I went. The farmer, meanwhile, walked toward the bull waving his hat and yelling words I couldn’t hear but that sounded rather stern and directive. I got to the other building which was inside the pasture, so, luckily, no gate was involved. I pushed open the door into what seemed to be a storage shed, pulled the cable in, dried off the end I was going to be plugging into the electric socket, and went for it. I remember thinking this could go very badly but, in the name of theatre!, I plugged it in. Nothing happened, which I took as a good sign, and I went back to the door, shutting it as far as I could with the cable inside. As I looked around I didn’t see the farmer, or the bull. I tentatively took some steps out, it was clear to go, so I sloshed my way back across the mud, opened and closed the gate, splashed in some cleaner water to get mud off the boots, and tromped back into the hall.

I found James up on a ladder adjusting a lighting fixture, and told him about my bull adventure, and that I was hoping the farmer was OK. He pointed, and I saw the farmer had come in, was helping to secure some of the sound equipment, looking fine, albeit with wet hair. I went over to thank him, and he said that his bull tended to go walking around, but was really a good bull. His eyes at that moment were full of pride for his bull friend, and I thought, for the millionth time since taking the job, how much we have to learn from each other, about our many different, unique lives.

The show went very well. It was packed with families and all of the tech worked, including the electricity! The rain continued, adding a steady background rhythm. It only ran about an hour, but we divided it in two for the sake of the youngest children, and also so that this village could have a birthday bingo party in the middle, the interval. We were included as if we had been there forever. We sang happy birthday to the several children they were included in the celebration, had cake, coffee, and played bingo, before starting the second half of the show. It was unusual; different than the formal theatre I had known before this internship, it was a lot of hard work, and, like all creative adventures, it didn’t always turn out as expected. It also, for reasons I couldn’t quite describe, felt like returning to the heart of what theatre is.

And, somewhere during this rainy, now long ago, day, in the middle of all of the activities, the running of cables through mud whilst avoiding a bull, singing happy birthday, waiting for a sheep herd, listening to theatre war stories, assembling a theatrical venue from scratch - somewhere in all of this doing, a deep and lasting commitment was planted in my spirit. It was a commitment to engage creatively with people and communities, for story-sharing, enjoyment, healing, collaboration, and mutual learning. I knew, on that day, now long ago, that I had happened upon a life-changing realization about the power of creativity to unite, transform and connect. That, as an artist, I could be a part of things in a way I’d never felt before, creating spaces with people to engage each other through sharing story, song and beingness. There is nothing better, to me, then this act of co-creating, of this being alive, imagining and making our world, together.
Tell us about your podcast audience.
The Story and Horse podcast audience are people who are interested in exploring the lived experience of creativity. They may be professionally creative in a traditional or less-traditional artistic form, or they may be a hobbyist, or someone who activates creativity in everyday life. We also have story-lovers who join us to hear the creative themed narratives, and some stuck-creatives who yearn to reconnect with their own creativeness. Every guest we have is unique, and their method and use of creativity is very individualized. This provides an ever-expanding tapestry of encouraging creatives with whom to connect and draw inspiration from. Also, every episode’s show notes include ways to connect with the guests to make new creative friends and grow an imagination empowered community.

Vinnie Potestivo, Editor-in-Chief of
I Have A Podcast®

Vinnie Potestivo,
Editor-in-Chief of I Have A Podcast®

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