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Rising Star Playwright Amy Oestreicher: “Why we need the movement to #LoveMyDetour”

I want to inspire people to flourish because of rather than in spite of their challenges. That’s why my first TEDx Talk was all about “detours.” #LoveMyDetour aims to encourage growth and healing by sharing our stories and transform communities by inspiring people to open their minds and reframe their view of “detours” into a […]

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I want to inspire people to flourish because of rather than in spite of their challenges. That’s why my first TEDx Talk was all about “detours.” #LoveMyDetour aims to encourage growth and healing by sharing our stories and transform communities by inspiring people to open their minds and reframe their view of “detours” into a new direction for life. Detours have the power to change us — they lead us on a different path. We stray from our origins, but in doing so, we come into contact with things we never would have experienced and walk through doors that would otherwise have been closed. How do you learn to love your detours? You follow the path and see where it takes you — that makes you a DETOURIST. A Detourist looks for the upside of obstacles. They follow that twisted path because they’re curious to see where it could lead. The road may be long, tough, and filled with even more detours, surprises, and unexpected turns. But a Detourist just keeps going and let’s those twists and turns create an even stronger, savvy traveler. If you’re a Detourist, every obstacle is an amazing opportunity to grow, learn, and see all that life has to offer — and who doesn’t like to travel? Traveling as a Detourist can be tough. A detour is not a free ride, but it is a thrilling one. When the road gets rocky, the important thing to know us that were not alone. So when life gets stressful, or doesn’t go as you plan, think of it as a detour — and make it a beautiful one. As you travel, remember to reach out for the help you need. We’re stronger when we navigate our detours together.


As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Oestreicher. Amy is an Audie award-nominated playwright, performer, and multidisciplinary creator. A singer, librettist, and visual artist, she dedicates her work to celebrating untold stories, and the detours in life that can spark connection and transform communities. Amy overcame a decade of trauma to become a sought-after PTSD specialist, artist, author, writer for The Huffington Post, international keynote speaker, RAINN representative, and health advocate. She has given three TEDx Talks on transforming trauma through creativity, and has contributed to NBC’s Today, CBS, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen Magazine, The Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, and MSNBC, among others. Amy has toured her musical, Gutless & Grateful, to over 200 venues from 54 Below to Barrington Stage Company since its 2012 NYC debut, and developed her full-length play, Flicker and a Firestarter, with Playlight Theatre Co. Her multimedia musical, Passageways (original lyrics, music, book and mixed media artwork) has been performed at HERE Arts Center, Dixon Place, and the Triad Theater. She has recently published her memoir, My Beautiful Detour: An Unthinkable Journey from Gutless to Grateful. Her plays have been published by Eddy Theatre Company, PerformerStuff, Narcissists Anthology, New World Theatre’s “Solitary Voice: A Collection of Epic Monologues,” and were finalists in Manhattan Repertory’s Short Play Festival, NYNW Theatre Fest, #MeTooTheatreWomen, “Women in the Age of Trump,” and Tennessee Williams’s New Orleans Literary Festival. Her play Factory Treasure is the one-act winner of Central PA Theatre & Dance Fest, and has been performed at Identity Theatre, Actor’s Theatre of Newburyport, and The Depot. See more at www.amyoes.com.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Amy! Can you tell us a story about what inspired you to choose a career in the arts?

I would say the arts chose me.

I grew up loving to create, mostly musical theatre. I’ve always loved performing, singing, dancing, and channeling all of my uncontainable energy into artistic mediums. It’s always been how I connect with the world. It was only after my traumas did I learn to use creativity as a survival skill. Then, I was able to turn my creativity into a healing means of expression. Stories transform our personal experience, enrich our community and teach others the lessons we have learned for ourselves — they’re reliable patterns we can lean on in a world with no map. As an artist, creating stories is my way to uncover the certainty and significance from chaos and unsteadiness. After surviving a decade of trauma, I discovered this storytelling “survival strategy” as a roadmap and anchor to myself. Once I could start to articulate the events that had taken place in my life, I started to re-frame them, and find the “beauty” in the “detours” my life had taken. I always knew I’d go into something creative, and then, I just let my unexpected detour to force me to investigate new productions and hobbies — I started a chocolate business, learned to cook and authored a food blog. I taught herself to paint and created mixed media acrylics, and put up three art shows within one year. I learned karate, tai chi and yoga, as well as teaching nursery school and assisting Biology classes. I wrote a one-act play, a graphic novel, and tell my story in the medium I’ve always loved best — the theatre.

Can you share the most interesting story unrelated to your ‘Detour’ that has happened to you since your ‘Detour’?

Every story has a few good detours! But an interesting story that’s happened lately is that I am working on becoming a Certified Humor Professional — yes, this actually exists. Humor is definitely a proven way to be resilient, happy, determined, and work through anything. I’ve presented at the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor for two years and am a student in their humor academy. So besides that, and working on my play writing MFA, there’s been a lot of interesting stories to laugh and write about!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

At first, I was SO eager to make my mark, network and get back into the world, after years of isolation, that I kept my all or nothing mentality…maybe a bit too much! I would Wikipedia any producers, schools, conferences, organizations I could find, and reach out to them before I even knew exactly what I was reaching out to them for. I learned that I have determination and persistence which is good. But a valuable lesson I learned is that you don’t always have to spread yourself too thin and try to do everything, tell everyone, and all at once. Find one thing you want to do at this moment, really hone your craft, and be specific and focused with who you reach out to, and what you’re looking to do. It took a lot of radio silence, or letters back saying they appreciated my enthusiasm, but I wasn’t offering what they were looking for at this time. If YOU know what you’re offering and why someone should be interested in, what you’re offering will be much more appealing! I also learned how important persistence is

What do you think makes you stand out? Can you share a story?

Wow….many things!

I’ve never cared what people thought of me, and was proudly, unashamedly, fearlessly creative my entirely life.

So, maybe I’ll share a few childhood stories:

1.) My mother gave me a cow-spot printed coat (a fleece coat!) as my Chanukah present in third grade. I was so embarrassed about it that I wore it even more proudly, wrote a song about it, and decided to become a cow figurine collector. I changed my email to broadwaycow, and my nickname to AmyCow.

2.) I was always getting sent to the principal’s office for tap-dancing on the teachers desk in third grade.

3.) My friend Erin always knew that when I came over I would be directing her in my camcorder films, Claymation/stop motion animation with my beanie babies. So I would always call her the day before to “prepare” her for my film shoot. I called her house at midnight to ask “Hi Mrs. Parnell, do you have any blue rags?) Her mom called my mom the next day. “Marilyn, I think Amy’s directing is getting a bit out of hand. She called our house at midnight to ask for ‘blue rags.’ Does she sleep?”

4.) I had such strong daydreams as a kid that in the middle of class I would pull my chair out and just stare at the wall so I could focus and have my daydreams. I would kindly inform my teacher, “Don’t disturb me I’m having my Daydreams right now!”

5.) But a more recent anecdote? Well, I have several medical bags that make it difficult, if not impossible to sit, so I’m known as the girl who is always setting up her suitcase on the train to make a standing desk out of her laptop, and finding other ways to make any sitting situation standable!

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will inspire people?

I recently premiered Passageways, which I’m very excited about–it’s a multimedia fantastical one-woman musical with 16 original songs and over 200 projections of my mixed media artwork. I hope it inspires people because rather than a linear narrative, it’s more of an exploration of both the internal and external landscape of PTSD, in a very uplifting performance. I am hoping to take the show on tour to theatres, schools, and groups to really start a conversation on how the arts are a very positive and supportive way to work through anything. I’m also in rehearsal for a full-length play I wrote about my grandmother. At age 18, she was a Holocaust survivor, and I’ve always wondered how she was able to stay so strong, surviving what she did. I think her lessons of joy and resilience are very powerful, now, more than ever.

What advice would you give to other people undergoing a ‘Detour’ of their own?

Detours have the power to change us — they lead us on a different path. We stray from our origins, but in doing so, we come into contact with things we never would have experienced and walk through doors that would otherwise have been closed.

So when life takes a detour, the first thing to do is to accept that yes, this WILL change things. Change is scary…but it can also be very exciting. So embrace whatever changes are ahead!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are now? Can you share a story about that?

My brother Matt. I admired him for his radical (to me, at least) ideas, passion for creativity, and sheer talent. Matt has always been a freakishly gifted musician — playing with everyone from Lady Gaga to Stevie Wonder to Michael Bolton — contrasted by a passion for Eastern thought and philosophy. He spent years at yoga centers and ashrams, lived in India for months, and taught me meditation. Matt helped foster my creativity, starting with spending hours at the piano with me, making audio tapes of skits involving an imaginary man named “Dave” and his adventures. Connection is a vital part of keeping my creativity fresh, honest, and comforting. Matt’s balance of Zen, creativity, family values and goal-oriented business mindset have always helped me regroup and focus on what matters most to me.

How have tried you paid forward the goodness you have received in your life?

Yes!!! My ultimate goal is to create an organization, center or foundation that promotes creativity and healing as a means to share what I’ve learned with the world. I just want to make a difference in the world by doing what I love, and helping others access their own passion to tell their stories, and move through any detours in their own life. I want to keep planting seeds for change in the world we live in: How do we create a community that supports every individual in their own process of healing? How can we reach out to others, and what is the benefit, for them as well as for us? I hope to empower others to find happiness in the little moments. You don’t always have to be thinking about the big picture. That’s why I’m working with people of all backgrounds, ages, abilities and experiences, helping them find confidence in their own creative abilities — because creativity is really the best survival strategy I can think of, and I think we all need to find our creative voice in some capacity.

What are your “5 Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Think about what resilience means to you, and then find some way to embody it. Work hard to tap into your strength, but know that at the end of the day you are human, not a robot and not a saint.

2. Start from anywhere. Don’t compare yourself and work with what you have. Don’t accept what you start with. Visualize what you’d like to be and manifest it — will it. The most important thing is to really tune into your passion and work from there — wherever it may lead you — no matter how crazy. If it is authentic, it’s real. And with a bit of dedication, it will happen.

3. They say that everything happens for a reason. But that’s not always true. Sometimes, you have to make it happen. I think about my old life, and I miss it. I miss the simplicity. I look at old pictures and I the joy and innocence in my eyes. I can’t be 13 again but I can be the best 32 I can. But sometimes I wonder what life would be like if this never had happened — This is not the path that I planned for myself — but does anyone’s life ever work out exactly how they plan it?

4. 28. Take the time to enjoy, absorb, and appreciate the effect your micro-movements have had so far — even if it’s not all you want for yourself yet. A ripple can stretch out for miles…

5. If you don’t laugh through something, you won’t make it through with flying colors.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I want to inspire people to flourish because of rather than in spite of their challenges. That’s why my first TEDx Talk was all about “detours.”

#LoveMyDetour aims to encourage growth and healing by sharing our stories and transform communities by inspiring people to open their minds and reframe their view of “detours” into a new direction for life.

Detours have the power to change us — they lead us on a different path. We stray from our origins, but in doing so, we come into contact with things we never would have experienced and walk through doors that would otherwise have been closed.

How do you learn to love your detours? You follow the path and see where it takes you — that makes you a DETOURIST.

A Detourist looks for the upside of obstacles. They follow that twisted path because they’re curious to see where it could lead. The road may be long, tough, and filled with even more detours, surprises, and unexpected turns.

But a Detourist just keeps going and let’s those twists and turns create an even stronger, savvy traveler. If you’re a Detourist, every obstacle is an amazing opportunity to grow, learn, and see all that life has to offer — and who doesn’t like to travel?

Traveling as a Detourist can be tough. A detour is not a free ride, but it is a thrilling one. When the road gets rocky, the important thing to know us that were not alone. So when life gets stressful, or doesn’t go as you plan, think of it as a detour — and make it a beautiful one. As you travel, remember to reach out for the help you need. We’re stronger when we navigate our detours together.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Everything will be okay in the end, and if it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

I googled this bit of wisdom, and many people have taken credit for saying it — This is most certainly not the end, and I don’t think it ever will be, because every day seems to bring a new miracle. My first bite of food in years, getting the lead role of Nancy in Oliver a month after being discharged from the hospital, leaping across the stage in CATS. Starting a chocolate business because I was so hungry I just wanted to play with candy, teaching nursery school, learning karate, …and the biggest one: that I’m here right now to tell you about these miracles.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Oh wow…who wouldn’t love having lunch with Brene Brown? Her perspective on vulnerability, courage, compassion and leadership is so spot on and inspiring!

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