What Makes Hillary Dziminski Tick

In ‘What Makes You Tick’ I get the chance to pick the brains of some inspirational people from all walks of life, in the hope that by sharing ideas we can continue to progress, push our limits, and inspire each other.

Hillary Dziminski is the Creative Producer for The Corps Ensemble, an ensemble theatre company led by Rex Ryan and Edwin Mullane. Hailing from Knoxville, Tennessee, she originally ventured to Ireland as a tourist, upon graduating in 2014.

“I decided that because I didn’t have a job and I didn’t know what I wanted to do, that I would travel. I started in Ireland, and just fell in love with the country and the people, and after a long process of travelling and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, I ended up making it a permanent move. I came over for the long run in June of 2015 and have just recently renewed my visa to stay on another year, so I’m very excited about that.”

In university she studied French, while playwriting and creative writing was her minor. It was through further study that she was able to make the move to the Emerald Isle more permanent.

“When I decided to come to Ireland, one of the easiest ways for me to get over here was to do a masters program, so I decided to apply for a Masters in Drama and Performance Studies at UCD. I got in, and that’s kind of how I managed to get myself here, and it was great. I absolutely loved it; it was fantastic to learn about Irish theatre and just to start making some connections. It was a brilliant experience.”

Through a chance meeting, another door appeared for Hillary, and she walked right through it. 

“I was living out in Clontarf when I first moved here, and kind of got to know the people at The Viking Theatre very well, and spent a lot of time there. I met Rex when he had a show on there. I think I met him when he was doing Pilgrim, a one man show, and we sort of became friends. I said to him at one point “If you ever need help with anything, give me a shout”, and he did. And that was kind of how I got involved with The Corps Ensemble, it was very surprising and I was delighted with myself! It was great.”

Hillary was kind enough to take the time to share some of her experiences and insights. 

Would you say you are more introverted, or extroverted?

Yea I’ve thought about this for about a week now, and I have to say that I am an extrovert trapped in an introvert’s body, because my initial impulse is always towards extroversion. I’m very social and a very energetic kind of person. I love to talk to people. But then I always find myself in social situations being kind of shy, and I surprise myself with that. So I’m a bit of both, but I try my best to be an extrovert.

What are your hobbies/interests?

I love reading, and I love watching films and TV. I have a cat, so I spend a lot of time with my cat. I love exploring, definitely, and I love seeing the city. I think I still have a license to be a tourist, so I love to go around and do touristy things, sightseeing and all that. And just generally hanging out with my friends. I love to cook and I’m super into music as well; I always have something playing in the background.

Describe your typical morning routine. 

Coffee is my morning routine, definitely. I wake up every morning and the first thing I do is make coffee. The second thing I do is feed my very needy cat, and let him outside. So yeah, he’s my alarm clock.

Describe your perfect Sunday.

My perfect Sunday definitely includes sunshine, a long sleep, a really nice breakfast and then maybe some exploring around Dublin or elsewhere, and just relaxing and taking it easy.

I am happiest when…

I have a cup of coffee and a book in my hand.

Do you have a guilty pleasure? 

Oh. I have many, yes. My guilty pleasures include chocolate, a lot of it. Really bad TV shows, like True Blood. I have seen every episode of True Blood, which is just horrible! It’s great though. Binge watching Netflix is a huge guilty pleasure. At the moment I’m working my way through Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It’s a comedy show about Brooklyn cops in New York, and it’s ridiculous, and funny, and it just makes my day.

What’s the best book you’ve read, and why?

That’s very difficult. I mean, I’m gonna have to stick to my nerdy roots and say, every book in the Harry Potter series. I grew up with it and it’s just such an incredibly meaningful series for me, and it’s something that I go back to all the time when I’m feeling like I don’t know whats happening with my life. It’s just so relatable for me too; I think I’ve read each book at least ten times, maybe more, and I will continue to read them until the day I die.

But I do have other book interests as well, not just children’s fantasy. Recently I started a book called The A to Z of You and Me, and it’s about a guy who is dying. He kind of goes through the alphabet, and thinks of a memory for each letter. It’s really poignant, and makes you think about your life and what you would do if you were in a similar situation, and what are the things that you would remember the most. It’s a lovely little book, and I’m really enjoying it so far.

What is your passion? 

I think my passion is generally being creative. I’ve always been a really creative person in that I’ve always loved reading and writing, and although I’m terrible at it, I also love to doodle and colour. Pretty much everything that kind of falls under the arts and creativity umbrella, is so attractive and appealing to me. I guess I didn’t realise theatre as being my passion until quite recently.

I mean, I got involved in it when I was very young, the way that most people do which is through acting; I’m a terrible actress, really really appalling, but I loved it when I was a kid and when I was a teen. I suppose it was through that discovery I also learned that I love to write for the stage, and through that then, I also discovered that I love to produce and direct, so it’s been a long process kind of discovering and realising my passion, but certainly being creative and making amazing things with amazing people is definitely what gets me out of bed every morning.

I think it can be a sort of big divide for a lot of people, that each sector of the arts is a separate entity, but really I think they all go together, and there is room there for them to feed off each other and develop. Like, if I’m writing something and I feel stuck I think it’s so helpful to hear some music, or to go outside and just be in nature, maybe go to a gallery, anything to get those juices flowing. I think music and theatre and art, they’re all part of the same thing, and can and should work together.

How do you measure success? 

For me, like if I’m working on a show for example, the mark of success is if one person comes up afterwards and says, “I was really affected by that”. Or even if somebody tells me that they hated it, either way it’s a strong response, but just to see that what we have created has had an affect on somebody in some way. Thats what it’s all about for me, you know, making another person feel something. I think it’s so easy these days to just tune everything out and disconnect, and for me, if we’re making people connect with something and feel something in one way or another, we’re being successful.

Who had the most influence on you at a young age, and why?

My parents definitely. I was really really lucky growing up in that my parents were always so supportive in anything that I wanted to try or anything I wanted to do; they took me to all my dance recitals, and choir practices, and musical rehearsals, and were always there for everything, they never missed a show. I guess I’m always constantly inspired by my dad, who passed away when I was 13. He was always just such an inspiration to me, and he always encouraged me to really follow what I wanted to do. He loved life and he loved everything about living; his message was to always have joy in your heart, and he’s always there in the back of my mind reminding me to find that joy, and to pursue the things that make me feel happy. He was definitely a huge inspiration, and my mom of course is an angel, she is amazing. She’s been so supportive. When I said to her, “I’d like to move to Ireland”, she said OK, and backed me 100%. I’m the only child, so that must have been incredibly difficult, to support me in moving 5000 miles away. So yeah, she’s extraordinary.

But along the way of course I’ve had some amazing teachers and mentors who have also really encouraged me to find what I love, and go for it. I’m incredibly lucky in that regard, also.

What was the most significant learning experience you can recall having?

Thats a good question. I think I’ve had quite a few along the way, but I guess both in professional and personal terms the biggest moment was when Rex and Ed asked me to come on as Creative Producer for the company. It was a huge revelation for me to kind of look at everything I’ve done and say to myself, “I am qualified to do this job, and I want to do it”, and I then had to sit down with myself and say, “Right, you’re 24 years of age, you have a BA and an MA; you can do this, you’re fine”. This kicked off a whole series of professional learning experiences for me. You know, I’m American so the transition into the Irish theatre world involved a lot of reading, a lot of reading Irish plays, and researching the history of Irish theatre; it’s definitely an ongoing learning experience being with The Corps, but it’s great fun and everyone is so supportive of that, so it’s brilliant. I really couldn’t ask for a better team of people to be surrounded by.

How do you deal with adversity or self-doubt?

I deal with it constantly. I am the poster child for that expression “You’re your own biggest critic”. I am constantly second guessing myself, and for me the best way to deal with that is to reach out to the people that are in my support network, and to tell them what I’m grappling with, that I don’t know what I’m doing, and without fail, they always come back with something helpful, and with so much positivity and energy, that I completely forget what I was freaking out over in the first place. I’m really fortunate to have some incredible friends here in Ireland, and my family is always just a phone call away. I am incredibly lucky to have people that I know love me and that I can rely on, and are always there for me no matter what.

What are some moments to remember or defining moments from doing what you do? 

One of my favourite memories from the past year was when I was working on Bug, our most recent show which I produced. Every night before the show began, when all of the actors were on stage and warming up and doing they’re funny little dances and exercises, I found that there was just this magic in the room; everyone was so pumped up and ready; determined to go on stage and make something amazing happen. I got to sit there and be a part of it and observe it at the same time, and for me it just made the experience so completely wonderful. I could see people that I’d spent weeks working with, working on developing something, and then I could watch them perform and do their thing, and I was just so proud to be involved. It was great of course then after the show, hearing people come up and say things like “Wow, that was amazing” and “I can’t believe what I just saw”.

So yeah, that experience was incredible. It was extraordinary; it was the first production that I had worked on as a producer and it was just, well, I could not have asked for a better first experience. It was simply incredible.

What advice would you give to those in pursuit of a dream, who are perhaps at a crossroads, unsure of which path to take?

I would definitely say to try everything. I got into this industry as an actress as a child, and obviously that did not pan out, but I tried writing, I tried acting, I tried vocal performance; I ventured down every avenue of the industry until I found what I loved and what I was good at, and that feeling when you do find what it is you know you can do, it’s just unbelievable, and you will find it.

My second piece of advice would be to never give up on it. If you’re truly passionate about something, just find a way to make it work. If it means that you have to endure a terrible day job in order to pursue your passion at night, then do it, because it will be completely worth it. It will change your life, and you will not regret it.

To find out more about the incredible work being done at The Corps Ensemble, you can check out their website, and you can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter.