Written By Melvin Tunstall

“Don’t just dream. Believe.”

It’s been over a decade since I wrote those words in a card to my best friend. I had found these two decorative rocks that read “dream” and “believe” and in a moment of inspiration, realized belief is the key ingredient to any dream you have for yourself. Since then, “Don’t just dream. Believe.” has not only become a life philosophy but the message I am trying to leave the world through my art. 

I wish I would have trademarked the phrase, because according to my best friend,  it is now also a part of Oprah’s Money Making tips, coming in at #6. Not bad for my first attempt at being inspirational. Oh well, what can you do?

TheaterMakers are natural dreamers. It’s our gift. We can create worlds, characters, and stories on demand. Give us a blank page and we will envision full productions as we craft our stories.  

The dream part is easy. It is our belief that is always at jeopardy- especially when you’re a part of a business where it is expected “you will hear a hundred nos before one yes.” Rejection is not for the faint of heart. Rejection can take down titans of confidence. Then there are the comparisons. Comparing our achievements (or lack thereof)  to our peers in the industry can be even more destructive to our belief system. However, you should never feel guilty for having moments of disbelief when it comes to making theater.

Never. Never.

Oprah Winfrey says “you don’t become what you want, you become what you believe.” For an exercise, I encourage you to sit down and write down a “Belief List” as you look ahead towards 2022. According to Oprah, who indeed is a TheaterMaker also, it is important to make sure that what you want aligns with what you believe, so here is a reminder of those 4 “Belief Boosters” to make sure your Broadway sized dreams are backed by Broadway sized beliefs!  


1. Stop comparing yourself to others

Whether you are comparing yourself to your friends on social media or you compare your show’s progress to another’s success, comparisons aren’t healthy. Studies have shown there is a direct link between envy and the way you feel about yourself.

2. Surround yourself with positive people

The people you collaborate with influence your thoughts and attitudes about yourself more than you think. If you feel bad about yourself after working with a particular person or group of people, it may be time to say goodbye.

3. Practice positive “self-talk”

Using a positive “outer monologue” can help you generate self-compassion, overcome self-doubt, and take on new challenges. Negative self-talk can limit your abilities and lessen your confidence by convincing your subconscious that you “can’t handle it” or that something is “too hard” and you “shouldn’t even try.”

4. Be Kind to Yourself

Self-compassion and especially self-care contribute to more consistent confidence. So the next time you’re in a challenging situation, recognize that being imperfect or falling short at times is a part of living. Do your best to navigate these experiences with self-compassion and make self-care a top priority.


When I applied for the Johnathan Larson grant, I remember telling the submission committee in my personal essay that even though I had never studied playwriting (choosing to focus on Musical Theater performance in college) that I believed I had a natural, God-given ability to write musicals- citing my Aunt and Uncle’s ability to play piano though they never studied. I also stated that one of the reasons I was applying for the grant was my desire to match this belief with actual education as I  shifted my focus from performing to writing. Even though I (rightfully) did not win the grant, I believed in my inherent abilities then, and I stand by that belief today- especially after some study and real-world experience.. There were many (basic) things I got right with my first musical- though the lack of education was glaring to anyone who studied the craft. 

Fifteen years later and I’m sitting in my office writing this tip after opening a set of emails from Playscripts, Inc. informing me that 2 more theaters have requested rights to one of my shows today. 

Don’t just dream. Believe. Then achieve. 

“If you believe within your heart you’ll know that no one can change the path you must go. Believe what you feel and know you’re right, because the time will come around when you say it yours. “

”If You Believe” from The Wiz by Charlie Smalls 

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