We had the good fortune of connecting with Haden Rider and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Haden, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I think, for me, co-founding Play On Players was a natural progression of my artistic journey at the time. I grew up in Dahlonega, Georgia and, while I come from a family with a heavy musical background, I wasn’t exposed to live theatre until I reached highschool. At this point I was spending most of my time playing football and had convinced myself I was going to pursue a career in marine biology (probably because I was obsessed with the Jaws movie). Anyway, having the opportunity to explore the arts at such an impressionable age altered the course of my life entirely. I recognized the impact that a non-profit theatre would have on my community and wanted to give these kids the experiences that I would’ve wanted to have at their age. Through their dedication, a whole lot of teamwork, and plenty of guidance and support, we were able turn Play On Players – which initially started out as a class project in my undergrad theatre management class – into an internationally recognized organization. Play On Players has allowed me to share my love and passion for theatre with the community that got me where I am today, and I’m excited to see how it continues to grow!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
To me, my work as a theatre artist is incredibly personal. I think I’ve always used theatre as an extension of myself to better communicate with the people around me. And, the more I think about it, it’s really hard to define what “sets me apart”. What’s so great about theatre is that each actor and artist brings their own unique perspective to the story-telling process, and I’m reminded of that everytime I step onstage! When it comes to what I’m most proud of? I immediately think of all the people who’ve been impacted by my work. On a surface level, live theatre is entertainment. I know that. But when you boil it down to its core, theatre is really about fostering community and experiencing something collectively with people who you’ve never met or may not have anything in common with. That’s what makes it so worthwhile! That being said, my professional journey has not been an easy one. It’s felt like a huge balancing act and required me to really prioritize the important aspects of my life, so I can continue to create work that I’m proud to share. Between juggling Play On Players, my performance career, teaching voice lessons, and trying to stay present in all of my personal relationships, I have had to learn to rely on my community and learn to ask for their help and support from time to time. I have a habit of trying to take on too much at once and put 100% of myself into my projects, so it’s been really important to have people in my corner telling me to slow down when it looks like I’m approaching “burnout”. Funny enough, I haven’t put too much thought into what I want people to know about my “story”. I think my ultimate goal is for people to think less about me, and think more about the art that I create. If I’m lucky, I’ll have created a body of work that genuinely moves people, inspires them to live life more courageously, and love one another a little harder. That’s really all I can ask for!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
The first place that comes to mind is Cooks & Soldiers! My good friend Taylor Buice introduced me to it early in our friendship and it’s been one of my favorite places to visit since. If I’m downtown I’d go see a show and grab an old-fashioned cocktail with friends afterwards, but ideally I’d find myself at home with a homemade charcuterie board, a dry cabernet, and good company.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
If I’m being honest, this is a tough one! I think so much of my work as an artist has been heavily influenced by all of my life experiences up to this point. But if I had to shout out some of my biggest artistic supporters, they would probably be Alan Kilpatrick, Brandt Blocker, David DeVries, David Rossetti, Bruce Sellers, Jim Hammond, and Taylor Buice. I tried to think of just one person, but all of these incredible people have had a pretty substantial impact on my journey in completely different ways. They’ve shared with me their wins, losses, trials & errors, and plain old good advice with me for the past several years, and I’m a better artist and human being because of it!