Douglas W-Tieman: Give Yourself Permission

annabelle and douglas

Douglas and I met my Freshman year, his Junior year of college at Belmont University. We started out very good friends and it eventually bloomed into romance by December 2010. I joined him in NYC January of 2015, were engaged July of that year and got married October 2016! Life has been truly joyous as newlyweds in this crazy city. He left this week to go work on a Disney cruise for the summer so I thought I would snag him for an interview! He is an actor after all ;). Since he is a gardener and landscaper on the side, I brought him to the Plant Shed on 86th and Columbus where we could perused the plants and flower selection over our drinks. 

*Drink of Choice: Mochahontas from Bongo Java in Nashville, TN


AF: Today we have Douglas on the blog! My very own husband! It’s taken a long time and lots of convincing to get him on the blog but he is finally here. He is ready and about to drink his cappuccino! So I always ask what are you drinking?

DWT: I’m having a cappuccino with some beautiful flower art on top! It’s absolutely delicious. It has a rich nutty flavor to it which is exactly what I like.

AF: And what else did we get?

DWT: A s’mores cookie… (He tries it)

AF: Is it amazing? (I try it) Oh my GOD. So what is your usual drink of choice?

DWT: Usually a drip coffee but my favorite is a Mochahontas from Bongo Java in Nashville!

AF: Nashville plug! Sponsor us! Hashtag Nashville! So Douglas… give us a little bit of your back-story. I mean I know everything but tell everyone! When did you first discover your love for performing, the fiddle, and how you got to New York!

DWT: I’m not even sure if you knew this but my first ever performance was in preschool in a production of Hickory Dickory Dock. I dressed up as the clock and had a little mouse hand puppet. That was the mouse that ran up the clock. And there are pictures of that somewhere… That was my first time on stage in front of people. I don’t really remember that. But I DO remember my first experience doing a role and that was in fourth grade playing Ebenezer Scrooge in childrens version of A Christmas Carol. I was really lucky to have an incredible teacher that encouraged me. Susan Owens… my music teacher. Even though I was only in fourth grade she cast me as the lead. It was an elementary school so there were fifth graders too and a fifth grader played younger Scrooge and he was way taller than me… hastag casting.

AF: Hashtag type casting, haha.

DWT: Then that same year I started playing the violin when my orchestra teacher gave us the option of picking an instrument to play in the youth orchestra. He played the violin and did little bird songs and sounds on the violin and I was like, ‘Yeah I want to play that.” So they both kind of started at the same time!

AF: I think some people would be surprised to hear that you didn’t start violin until fourth grade.

DWT: I had been playing the piano prior to violin, which is even more interesting.

AF: So you stuck with the violin…

DWT: Stuck with the violin… and so after elementary school Susan Owens after  encouraged me to go to my very first community theatre audition…

AF: Which was?

DWT: Oliver!

AF: And you played…

DWT: Oliver!

AF: How funny that both of our first shows we played orphans…

DWT: The auditions were around Christmas time… I think I sang like “Jingle Bells.” I had no idea how to do an audition. My parents just took me to this little theatre in Winchester, the Leeds Theatre and I went in and sang my song. I was eleven or twelve and they basically cast me on the spot! It was really cool.

AF: So you did all the shows in high school…

DWT: Yes. I did shows through high school, community theatre, and even got involved in the UK’s Opera productions and did some roles there. I did Carousel and then all my shows through high school and also played fiddle and then went to Belmont University and studied Musical Theatre! I continued fiddle lessons there.

AF: So did you audition for a bunch of schools?

DWT: I auditioned for multiple schools. I auditioned at Otterbien, Baldwin Wallace, Belmont, CCM…

AF: Did you get in to BW?

DWT: No… I got in nowhere except for Belmont, the Theatre department at Otterbein and University of Kentucky.

AF: And Belmont accepted you as a Presidential Scholar so that kind of felt like a no brainer…

DWT: Yeah and I also loved it!

AF: That’s a big deal! What had to line up for you to be a Presidential Scholar?

DWT: The qualifications I guess had to do with GPA and test scores… but I had no idea that existed. I knew some people that had gone there and they contacted me about the scholarship and that I was being considered and then I had to write a few more esssays…

AF: So you go to Belmont… you meet me…

DWT: Yes- I met my wife Annabelle.

AF: That is I. What was your favorite role you got to play in college? What was a defining moment for you?

DWT: That’s a great question.

AF: I have my own idea of what your answer will be.

DWT: It was probably Billy in Anything Goes.

AF: Oh- really?

DWT: Were you going to say Dicken (in Secret Garden)? That wasn’t really defining… Billy was my first leading role… it’s also the first show we did together. It was the first time in college where I felt like I owned the role and felt supported and felt like a leading man. It was definitely the role that felt like, “you can be successful at this.”

AF: So then you graduate… and what happened after?

DWT: After graduation I knew I was going to be employed in two jobs.

AF: Which for most actors is unheard of…

DWT: So I was playing Rolf in Studio Tenn’s production of Sound of Music

AF: I was in it too! I was Louisa!

DWT: And my best friend Chris Rayis was the Music Director…which he still can’t believe.

AF: We were all so young…

DWT: He did an amazing job. After that I worked at the Cumberland County Playhouse and did shows in rep there. And then January 1st 2013, I moved to New York City!

AF: That’s cool because I literally moved exactly two years after you to the day!

DWT: Two years later.

AF: So what have some of your highlights been living in the city? It doesn’t have to be roles… but what are some experiences, things that have happened that have shaped who you are today…? I know it’s crazy to think about all of this….

DWT: It’s great to think about all of this… because I have had so many incredible experiences… that if I didn’t live in New York City I wouldn’t have had them…like getting to perform for Stephen Sondheim when I did Robber Bridegroom. He was out in the audience. I also served him pea soup when I was a Caterer. Highlights have been doing Merton at the Movies with Jim Parsons and got to go to Bond45 for a dinner after… it was incredible. And then they got me a car home… it made me feel like a real professional… haven’t had anything else like that since then, haha!

AF: Yes you haaaaave.

DWT: But that was the first time I realized they remembered me. Casting knew I played the violin and they contacted Judy, my agent and that’s how I got the job.

AF: So many of the things you’ve done are attributed to the fact that you play the violin.

DWT: Everything. I don’t think I’m good enough to be considered for anything other than a good instrumentalist.

AF: That’s not true. I would say because you’ve had so many successes with the violin you haven’t spent as MUCH time working on just being just an actor. That makes sense though because why would you when you have this other skill-set….

DWT: Yeah- it just feels like I’m competing against so many other people as just an actor and it takes so much longer. I feel like I can get to a place where I feel fulfilled and maybe branch off from the actor/musician role later in my career. Right now there are so many guys who can sing and act and dance…

AF: There are also so many more opportunities for actor/musicians right now. So now that you’ve been in the city for five and a half years…and we’ve heard one of your highlights share with us one of your lowlights…

DWT: The rejection around Once was really hard. It was at first a really heartbreaking situation.

AF: You were in for Broadway and the tour….

DWT: The first big thing I auditioned for was Once in Nashville. And they brought me in for auditions in New York and I think it was one of the reasons why I got my agents. One of the main reasons I moved to the city was because I saw that showing on the Tony’s with actor/musicians and I thought, “I can definitely do this.” And the thing is I was in the midst of trying to negotiate a contract to go away and figuring out if I needed to be in the city for more callbacks and I remember getting the call, “They’re not going any further with you for Once…” and being heartbroken and just crying. It was so sad. It was especially hard because so many people said, “You are perfect for this… you will be in this show. “ I think that is a real disservice we do to each other. We think it’s complimentary or encouraging but really there are so many people that are perfect for shows and they can only hire so many people… It’s not that youre any less perfect than anyone else it’s just a numbers thing. Since then I’ve tried really hard to not say that to somebody because that’s not the point. You’re perfect for what you’re going to end up doing. I don’t think actors should make themselves specific to certain shows to fit a mold… I think they should cater to what their passionate about.

AF: That’s a great segue to hear about what you’re working on now!! You’re creating opportunities for yourself and other people…

DWT: Yeah- I’ve always wanted to write a show about a fiddle player. It has these mythological elements about the south and pride and the devil. I happened to be jamming in Nashville and spoke to a songwriter and I bounced the idea off of him and he sort of gave me permission to start it. It’s really important in any process to be able to give yourself permission to go for it. That’s what so many people struggle with. They have an idea but it almost takes an outside push to get it started. I wish I’d started sooner, honestly. That would be my encouragement to anyone! If you have an idea… just do it! Just start. Just begin. Don’t wait for somebody to tell you to do it.

AF: I feel like you’ll agree with this but it’s like once you start creating something that you’re in control of that’s when other opportunities come into your life.

DWT: It gives you more to talk about.

AF: It makes you a full person. It fills you up in the sense that you’re working on something that you’re making on your own, developing on your own, and people see that and it’s natural for other things to follow because you’re putting yourself out there. So along those lines… what has filled you up outside of theatre?

DWT: Oh! Spending time with my wife.

AF: Haha.. what inspires you?

DWT: I mean honestly family is so important. Whether that’s being home, visiting our families… just making personal relationships the priority in my life. I have found that my day job as a gardener gives me so much joy…

AF: Oh yes- it was intentional that I brought the gardener to this plant café!

DWT: I love being outside. I knew I wanted an outdoors job to keep my sanity. I love making things grow… I’ve brought some friends on board. It’s a community that I’m really proud of. I’ve learned a lot about myself because I’ve gotten to a point of management and it has played into my abilities to navigate the team dynamics of my musical… how am I doing? Am I doing well?

AF: Yeah, you’re doing fine. Now…I always ask. What are some words of wisdom or advice you’d give to aspiring artists…?

DWT: Be the change you want to see in the world. I think that’s attributed to my love for Ghandi. Also- treat others as you would like to be treated.

AF: Are you going to get a tattoo of either of those?

DWT: Yeah- maybe a highlighter thing that’s also glow in the dark…

AF: Is there anything else you really want to share with your fans?

DWT: You mentioned words of wisdom? Find things outside of acting you find fulfilling. Always look for ways to create your own work and put yourself out there. Because I was playing my violin on a subway platform one day, I was able to meet somebody who asked me to join their band…and it was all because I was playing in a station and Tommy Crawford came over to me and took my card.

AF: You just need that one person to believe in you…

DWT: Yeah- then I had all these experiences! I went all the way to Nantucket with Seawife and met Liz Carlson and was able to see how a show is developed from the very beginning. It’s given me that knowledge to apply to Johnny. 

AF: Any last words before we go pick out a plant?

DWT: Just be happy. Help others. Be engaged in important relationships in your life. Don’t place value in flaky relationships. Find the people that are most important to you and spend time with them.

AF: And what are you about to go do!?

DWT: I’m heading out of the states to hang in Europe on a Disney cruise for three months, and dressing in ren faire style leggings.

AF: Like you’re in Tangled but not! Great- so I’m sure you’ll be trying amazing coffee all over the world.

DWT: Yes- follow my journeys on Instagram!

AF: Haha he’s joking. Cheers.



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