A director, actor, producer, and coach for over twenty years. Originally from Greece, Theodora Voutsa starred in several sitcoms on national television and plays by Moliere, Shakespeare, Bellei, Feydeau, William O’ Neil, Coward, and many others. She has also given workshops in New York, Rome, and now in Amsterdam. Theodora is also the founder and creator of the Theodora Voutsa Creation (TVC), an international professional and educational center for the Arts, Culture and Development.
The company was born organically. I’ve traveled a lot and I’ve taken a lot of classes, I still take classes. So, I started incorporating some of the information that I received from other teachers into my directing, and then actors would ask for some of the exercises outside the rehearsal space. Then a friend who was a businessman proposed something and it kind of evolved that way.Theodora said
The Theodora Voutsa Creation is divided into three sections: one is the entertainment side which is ‘The International Theatre in English’, the second is for film and video productions and is called ‘The Visibility Studio’, and the third is the educational part which is called ‘The Los Angeles Method’.
My vision for The Los Angeles Method is to become something like Cirque du Soleil. I am creating a space where actors can get trained and then perform. I would ideally like to have artists stay with us for two to three years, so they can start learning the “language” and understand the connection between personal development and acting, and then be able to open their wings and fly away.Theodora added.
The Los Angeles Method is not only for artists, but also for people who did not study acting but would like to be more creative in their everyday life, or would like to use acting techniques to be more efficient in their business or personal life.
I met Theodora when I was part of her Acting Masterclass for Beginners, where I not only learned acting techniques but also life lessons. I also learned a lot about myself, it was definitely an inspiring personal growth experience for me.
It is very important to be aware of who you are and what you can do, and to keep track of your successes and your failures, they’re evidence that you existed and evidence of what you can do. You need to trust that if you can do something or overcome a challenge once, then you can do it again.Theodora Voutsa
What guides both your personal and professional development and helps you regain focus during challenging times?
When I was a very young girl, I used to live with my dad. He would always say to me that panic is a really bad advisor and you should not panic. When I was 9 or 10 years old and did something wrong, I would freak out and say “oh my God my mom is going to kill me”, my dad would tell me: “first of all, your mom is never going to kill you, and second of all imagine that you’re three months ahead in the future and you’re thinking back to this, would it affect you the same way?” Then I would realize it wouldn’t and this calms me down.
What I usually do now is I stop and assess the situation. I think I’m smart enough to have created a good support network around me, and my partner is usually present. We vibrate in the same frequency in business and life, so together we get to see how we can fix any situation and figure out who can help us. Whether it’s something in business for which we need a specific person to help with, or we need to talk to someone about something personal going on and get their advice.
So, when you’re facing a challenge, don’t try to deal with it on your own, nobody can do anything on their own. You need to start by looking inside and making sure you know that your self-confidence and self-worth are at the levels that they’re supposed to be at, and confirm that this is not just something that you have created to beat yourself up; it’s not a drama that you want because you’re victimizing yourself. Make sure that it’s a situation that is really problematic on its own and then figure out where you need to get the tools to fix it from.
How do you manage fear and anxiety in your professional and personal life?
There are two choices one can make in life; one can choose between love and fear. So, fear is not something that you should eliminate from your life because it helps you survive. When you are in a situation of danger then fear is what will send adrenaline to your body to help you flee or fight. You just need to be able to control it, in the sense that it’s not crippling you. You can be afraid but still moving; it shouldn’t stop you from doing anything or make you static. You shouldn’t lock yourself up because of your fear.
So, when I feel fear, I know that I am close to my comfort borders, I know that something is going to happen, I know that something’s going to change. Then I just tell myself that I’m worthy and I just dive into it. I make an effort to put as much love as I can into the situation.
For example, I gave birth without taking any medications. When the pain started, and I realized that I’m going into labor, I was scared; I started to think “what will happen to me and what will happen to the baby?”. As a mother I started to question myself; should I be in a hospital? did I make the wrong choice? was I supposed to do something else? Then I got into that trans state, I started feeling the love; I allowed my body to go into that state of love. So that’s how you overcome fear I guess; through love.
Anxiety for me is translated into adrenaline. So sometimes I get confused if I’m just running and finishing something fast or if it’s really anxiety. I haven’t had anxiety issues, I’m just impatient sometimes because I’m very specific in what I have in my mind, and sometimes I want it now. It takes a few minutes for me to stop and remember that everything needs its time to grow and come to its own, and eventually come to me.
So, I have anxiety and I have fear but what balances out is love, faith and trust. I know what I deserve, I know what I’m worthy of, then it’s a matter of putting time into the equation and figuring things out.
What do you believe is at the core of women’s hesitation to step out and pursue leadership roles where they are?
It’s the hesitation, there should not be hesitation. We are taught to feel that we are not enough and that makes women hesitate. Boys are always encouraged, from a young age, to go try things out, play games, fall and get back up. While girls more likely stay inside and play with dolls. They are told not to laugh that loud or to pay attention to what they’re wearing for example. This is not men’s fault, its women’s fault because of how some mothers raise their boys.
There’s a tendency to try to treat girls like fragile beautiful objects. So, when they tell you that you’re fragile, when they tell you that you’re easily broken, you will believe it. Everyone’s brain’s sole purpose, whether it’s male or female, is to help us survive. So, if your brain has believed that you are fragile it will do whatever it takes to take you to a safe place.
It’s going to be difficult for you to step out because it takes a lot of work to be a leader and to be first; it is not given. So, when we blame men that there are more male bosses, we shouldn’t consider that it was offered to them, they worked hard to earn it. But they worked hard because they had the chance to have a family, have a woman take care of the family and have more time to go out and build their career. Whereas women will need to multitask; they don’t have the same amount of time to prepare for the same amount of work.
So, hesitation is one, scruple is another. Low self-worth and believing that you are not strong enough because strength is considered to be something physical when it is also mental and spiritual. Nature decided that a human being is going to come out of a woman. I don’t think a male body can handle the process that happens to the female body when it gives birth. Not physically but spiritually and mentally.
I think all girls should play sports that are labeled male sports, early on in school. They have to be part of a team to understand that they have more power than they think they do. They have to also program themselves to believe that they are worthy.
So, they have to do the ‘I’m Worthy’ Exercise?
If the educational system changes and the way parents raise their children changes, then the need for the ‘I’m worthy’ exercise will not be there anymore. To explain what the ‘I’m worthy’ exercise is, it is when you convince yourself, through affirmation, that you are worthy and that you are good enough.
What do you believe would be the greatest benefit to having more women as leaders in the world?
It will be a better place to be in. I think empathy is more natural to women and we see things in a different way. There should be men leaders but there should be an equal number of men and women. Maybe fifty-one percent women, just so we can have a vote when it comes to it. But they need to be healthy women and not women who hate themselves because that’s worse; the revenge of a woman is scarier than the revenge of a man. So, for a healthy woman who knows her stuff, I think the benefit would be more empathy, more love and more kindness.
You cannot describe a color to somebody who is blind; we give birth and we give life, this is something that men can’t understand because they didn’t go through it. But men can take that life and form it in a great way.
When the Jewish people in New York go buy a house, they would ask if the owner inherited it or made it on their own. If they have made it on their own then they will sell it for more, while if it was inherited then it will be cheaper because the owner didn’t do anything to get it; it was given to them. It’s the same thing with women; I think women haven’t inherited much, I think women have worked hard for what they have, and they cherish things in a different way. They have more points of view, that’s what I understand from working with them.
What role should men play in supporting more gender diversity?
They need to work on themselves first, because when you are against something, it’s out of fear and fear stems from within, so they need to understand why they’re afraid and what is it inside of them that tells them she’s a threat. They need to understand that the higher good of the planet and the world should be everyone’s objective.
I think personal work is important for everyone, we all need to be open to explore new possibilities; explore new ways of collaboration and break the confining convictions and stereotypes that we all have; that men should be breadwinners and women should be the mothers.
So, I think it’s a matter of all of us working together. We also need to educate ourselves, emotionally, creatively and spiritually, and look inside to find how we can make ourselves better people, because the world is made out of a global consciousness and the global consciousness is made out of our individual consciousness. We need to believe that we are worthy, and we deserve the best things in life, then we will find more of the love in the world.
What’s your greatest professional accomplishment, and why it means a lot to you?
I don’t think I’ve had my greatest yet. I would like to be internationally and globally recognized; I would like to win an Oscar or something. Not just win an Oscar but be acknowledged by my peers as somebody who is dedicated, devoted and a hard worker who has made a change and has given back to her community. I haven’t experienced that yet. Not to be ungrateful, I have experienced it in small doses, but I have bigger dreams.
What’s your greatest personal challenge and how did you achieve success despite of it?
It’s still a work in progress. I think that once you have solved all your challenges then it’s time for you to meet your creator, there’s nothing left to do. It’s like a video game; there are levels and once you reach the final level, you win, the game is over, and I don’t want to get there yet.
I’ve faced a lot of challenges, becoming a mother was a challenge; I really wanted to do it, but even though I knew I wanted to do it, I realized I was completely unprepared for it. I’m still facing this challenge; I’m still trying to figure out what the balance should be. I also have a challenge with myself; my relationship with food is kind of weird; I’m either rewarding myself or punishing myself through food. This is something that I’m still working on.
There are also the creative challenges; our last production in Amsterdam was an adaptation of Ayn Rand’s ‘The Fountainhead’. So, I was thinking did I honor her memory? did I do this right? did they get my meaning? was that the right message to give? did I use my opportunity to speak publicly wisely?
There are challenges every day, but it’s good that there are challenges and that challenges are solved, they’re not problems. Depending on the challenge, if it’s small then I might panic for a few minutes and then see how to tackle it. But when it’s huge, I need to stop for a few days, I need to go back into my home and reassess.
It is very important to be aware of who you are and what you can do, and to keep track of your successes and your failures, they’re evidence that you existed and of what you can do. You need to trust that if you can do something or overcome a challenge once, then you can do it again.
What does life mean to you?
It’s oxygen, fun, laughter, movement, and motion. I want a lot of it! It’s also doing the things that you love, spreading love, meeting people, asking questions and wanting answers, moving forward and giving back.
What was the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Not to care about what other people think; everybody has their own things going on, and their own confining convictions. They translate the world through their own hurts and traumas. Nothing will happen if someone thinks I’m not a good director for example, the world will still go around and I still have my family and the people I care about. So as long as it doesn’t interfere with my health and my well-being then I don’t care.
What advice would you give to young women out there?
Education would be the biggest thing and through education other things are going to come, such as self-worth, self-value and confidence. I think that through education you learn early on what you want to do with life, because if you don’t have information then you cannot make choices.
For example, when the only thing you’re seeing is your mother going out in the fields to pick rice, then comes back and gets raped by her husband, and she’s not allowed to open a bank account (there are countries where this is still the case), then you most likely won’t be thinking “I’m going to be Nike’s next CEO”. You will think, I better get a good rice field and a good husband who won’t rape me five times a week but maybe only three, this will be your ambition.
Whereas if you get a book and you start reading, if you get an education, then you see that there was this woman in history whose name is Joan of Arc who was the chief of armies. You will learn about Frida Kahlo who broke her entire body in a tragic accident yet became world famous because she put all her sorrow and pain into art. Then your mind opens up. Of course, you will say “but if I don’t get to eat then how am I going to read?” I would say if it’s between a bowl of rice and a book, do the sacrifice and go for the book because then you’ll be able to get ten bowls of rice.
It is really sad that genital mutilation still exists in some parts of the world and that there are still millions of girls around the world who are not getting education. Just see what Malala Yousafzai, a girl who wanted to read a book, a girl who wanted to get education did; just look at what kind of change she made!
Thank you so much. Truly enlightening and an inspiration