17 Quotations for Theatre Students

Theatre Quotations. Tetra Images

German actor Marlene Dietrich said, “I love quotations because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority by someone recognized wiser than oneself.” 

Many of the theatre classrooms, rehearsal rooms, and green rooms that I have visited have quotations posted on the walls. Here is a collection of 17 admirably expressed quotations that could work to motivate, inspire, and get theatre students thinking, reflecting, and discussing:

The Quotations


“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

--Tim Notke, High School Basketball Coach


“There is no such thing as great talent without great willpower.”

--Honore de Balzac, French Novelist and Playwright


“Try. Make mistake. Fail. Learn.

Try better. Make mistake. Fail. Learn.

Try better still. Make mistake. Fail. Learn.

Repeat until…

Try. Succeed.”

--Ken Evoy, Toys and Games Entrepreneur


“Early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable!”

--Eric Jerome Dickey, American Author


“The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.”

--Émile Zola, French Novelist, Critic, and Activist


“My mother drew a distinction between achievement and success. She said that achievement is the knowledge that you have studied and worked hard and done the best that is in you. Success is being praised by others, and that's nice, too, but not as important or satisfying. Always aim for achievement and forget about success.”

--Helen Hayes, American Actor


"Speak in such a way that others love to listen to you. Listen in such a way that others love to speak to you."



“You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

--Jack London, American Author, Journalist, and Social Activist


“Anyone may achieve on some rare occasion an outburst of genuine feeling, a gesture of imperishable beauty, are ringing accent of truth, but your scientific actor knows how he did it. He can repeat it again, and again, and again.”

--Minnie Maddern Fiske, American Actor


“Good actors are good because of the things they can tell us without talking. When they are talking they are the servants of the dramatist. It is what they can show the audience when they are not talking that reveals the fine actor.”

--Cedric Hardwicke, English Actor


“Sometimes the gods inspire a performance, and then the actor can do no wrong, but the actor must also prepare a performance for the night the gods do not attend.”

--Laurence Olivier, English Actor, Director, and Producer


“The theater is ruthless. An actor walks on the stage and within 30 seconds you know whether you want to watch him or not.”

--Peter Hall, English Theatre and Film Director


“The stage can be defined as a place where Shakespeare murdered Hamlet and a great many Hamlets have since murdered Shakespeare.”

--Robert Morse, American Actor and Singer


“The three I's are Industry, Intelligence and Imagination, and the greatest of these is Imagination.”

--Ellen Terry, English Stage Actor


“Acting is the shy person's revenge on the world.”

--Sinead Cusack, Irish Stage, Television, and Film Actor


“You must do the very thing you think you cannot do.”

--Eleanor Roosevelt, American Politician, Diplomat, Activist, and First Lady


“As soon as you become afraid to make a fool of yourself, you're in trouble. I decided I may as well just see if I can live with myself making millions of mistakes and learn something from it.”

--Gelsey Kirkland, American Ballerina

Resources for More Quotes

Need a much larger collection? Try The Guinness Dictionary of Theatrical Quotations or this page of Notable Theatre Quotes.

Want quotes and memes specifically from musicals? Try Things Musicals Taught Me.