In “An Open Letter to the Artist,” Tony Award nominee Bobby Steggert explains why he hasn’t been onstage as of late.
Bobby Steggert made his Broadway debut in MASTER HAROLD...and the boys back in 2003. A graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and having studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, Steggert was poised for a big career. And his career did take off. In 2007 he bowed as part of the original company of 110 in the Shade on Broadway and, a year later, earned a Drama Desk nomination for The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island. In the fall of 2009 he played Younger Brother in the revival of Ragtime and followed that up with a stirring performance in Off-Broadway’s Yank!, so when the 2010 awards season came around, Steggert earned Drama Desk nominations for both. He also earned a Tony nomination for Ragtime. He came back to Broadway in 2013 for Big Fish—another Drama Desk nomination—and then in Terrence McNally’s Mothers and Sons in 2014 alongside Tyne Daly.
But theatregoers haven't seen Steggert for a while—and that’s because he quit the business to pursue a career in social work.
Steggert’s leave from the theatre has given him a new perspective about his former career: “The irony of walking away from the arts is that I am now more convinced than ever as to the necessity of you, the artist,” he writes on Medium. “Lots of people practice empathy, but few have the experience you have in using it so flexibly.”
His letter urges artists—particularly actors—to use their abilities for empathy, compassion, and presentation of emotion in times when he feels the U.S. parades other values. More so, he wants artists to bring their work into their daily lives.
“It was easy for me to bare my soul under the safety of the blinding lights and a two-hour time limit. What was far more challenging for me was to translate that freedom of expression into daily life,” he confides.
While Steggert stepped away from the arts, he’s not necessarily making a plea for anyone else to do the same: “Instead, I am simply urging you to look at what you have in the moments when you feel frustrated and powerless—the enormous opportunity in every moment of your waking life, regardless of the audition you just aced, the job you just booked, or the brilliant performance you just gave. And equally important, the higher purpose you have despite the audition you just bombed, the job you just lost, or the brilliant performance you wish you had the opportunity to offer the world.
“My master’s degree will be a piece of paper, but my life as an artist will make me a great social worker, this I know.”