Have You Met?

One-time third generation Californian, Tracy Shaffer, describes herself as a lightening rod and a grounding cord: a realtor (a mover of people), a playwright, an actress and a proud mother, all of which is unified by a true love of story. Tracy writes compelling, moving stories showing a touch of her unique wit and her understanding of the ironies and complexities of the human spirit. She brilliantly brings words to life and is an all around literary talent and appreciator of the fine arts. She’s a much loved fixture within the Colorado fine arts community and plays a vital role in keeping our arts alive.

Ms. Shaffer is also a writer for the Huffington Post (as well as other publications), and she founded the “Thriving Artist Alliance” which helps creative people buy, sell, invest and build wealth through real estate. Tracy says: “I personally thrive on connecting creative people with the living & creative spaces they need to inspire them.”  And - as a writer Tracy says: “I am interested in stories of the difficulties and ecstasies of being fully human.”

Tracy has a blog that covers what she loves about living in Denver; her art, culture & community, up-to-date info on the real estate market trends and expertise for people ready to make a move in real estate. 

When asked why such an accomplished playwright would get into real estate, Tracy remarked: “Real estate is about change, life is about change, plays are about change. It’s all about finding a place on this earth where you can flourish, live your story out loud and use your creative power to influence the outcome.”

Tracy is an intensely dedicated, creative person with a strong understanding and feel for  how businesses and nonprofits need to run to be successful.  I found her to have a great self-deprecating sense of humor and a heightened sense and perception of everything going on around her.

Playwright Tracy Shaffer is a one of a kind act in her own right, and most of all, I saw in her eyes  a great sense of compassion for people hurting and in pain throughout the world.  I also saw a twinkle of mischief and intrigue there that says: “The best is yet to come.”    

At what age did you start writing – and who was the first person to encourage your talents in this area?  Los Angeles is a city about commerce over creativity so most of my time there was spent auditioning or working, leaving little quiet time for inspiration. Moving to Denver sixteen years ago was a big catalyst in my creative arc. I was pregnant with my second son and thinking a lot about my mother, who’d died six years earlier. I began writing a series of monologues about her which turned into Act I of my first play, “Saints & Hysterics” I wrote the second act holding my newborn in one arm and typing with my free hand.  Now I use both hands and write faster.

We seem to run into each other at art shows? What kind of art do you lean towards?
I don’t lean toward art, I collide. If you put yourself in places where you will intersect with creativity, galleries, museums, the theatre, you will crash into something deeply moving. Most of what you see will not engage you but when it does, it is very, very powerful. I’ve had amazing experiences with El Greco, Lucian Freud, Egon Scheile, De Kooning and Daniel Sprick. There are plays that have literally taken my breath away.  You never know what will happen with art until you’re standing in the gallery or sitting in the theatre, speechless and in those moments you have a chance to understand who you really are.

I want to hear more about Tracy Shaffer the actress and playwright?  I started acting as a child in a converted barn in suburban Los Angeles. My father was in the movie industry and my mother had been a dancer in 1940’s Hollywood so I spent a lot of time on the back lot of M-G-M Studios, watching movies being made. It was easy to see how art and commerce work together and it never dawned on me to create a life any other way. I moved to New York at the age of 21 to study with the Stella Adler and worked steadily in TV and theatre ever since.  The transition from actor as a primary expression to that of writer happened organically as I moved into the role of director and then to playwright. Actors play a part of the story, the director brings the elements together to form a whole, but as a playwright, there is no story until you write it. You have the experience of the creative process without anyone’s permission, without having to be “picked”, that part got boring.  Oh, and you can do it in your pajamas.

What so far has been your greatest achievement?  Finding balance within chaos. Which in my case means raising two very cool sons on my own as a Realtor in a declining market while continuing to write plays, get them produced and take a few vacations.

What do you still hope to accomplish? Being fully myself.

What can instantly make you laugh? Nothing. (laughs.)

What can instantly make you cry?  A parade. Or more specifically, watching high school marching bands in a parade. Gets me every time.

What do you love most about living in Denver?  Denver is dynamic. In the past decade there has been a great surge in growth, both culturally and on the real estate front. We’ve built four museums, created a national model of urban redevelopment with the Santa Fe Arts District, created the Colorado New Play Summit fostering new plays for the American theatre, a convention center, and hosted the DNC and the Biennial of the Americas. It is truly defining itself as a city for the 21st Century.  I love being a part of that.

Would you ever go back to living in Hollywood?  Oh god, no. I’m a third generation Californian so it will always be home, and I will always have great affinity for it, but it is too congested. I miss the ocean, my friends and Trader Joe’s but the Hollywood lifestyle no longer appeals to me.

What do you love about your life right now?  My heart is open, I’m in a highly productive moment and that thrills me.

What could be better?  My waistline.

Is there another place you’d like to live in someday?  Not in the states. I have dreams of living in the South of France; the smell of lavender and lemon and saltwater wafting through the window as I write. Or maybe Spain. Friends of mine have moved to an intentional community in Italy… that sounds nice.

*What social, charitable or philanthropic organizations do you feel strongly about? 
It’s the basic human needs, like food, housing and culture that appeal to me.  Arts in education and programs that inspire creativity draw me, because they are transformative and far reaching.  I’ve created benefit events for Habitat for Humanity and Paragon Theatre Ensemble as well as working on committees for Curious Theatre, Salon du Musee and a founding member of the Denver Center's Women’s Voices Fund. In LA I was very involved with Amnesty International and UNICEF. As a single working mother, I’ve found my biggest gift is not in volunteering but in spreading the word.  My  Huffington Post covers Denver arts, culture and community and has given me great access to the cultural and philanthropic communities. I am constantly amazed and inspired by those who are passionately involved in helping others and am blessed by having a platform to shine light on these treasured, visionary people.

Tell us about the Thriving Artists Alliance?  There was a time when I’d just come home from a year on the road playing “Shelby” in the National Touring Company of “Steel Magnolias”. I had four national commercials running, was working in television, had money in the bank, zero debt and an 800 credit score. No one told me to invest in real estate.  There is always the fear as an artist that you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, even when that fear has no foundation. We’ve been fed the Starving Artist archetype for so long we tend to believe it. Part of the reason I became a Realtor was to help others avoid this and see how they can invest in themselves and their futures. Creatives and real estate have a long history, most of it leaving the artist without and ownership equity in the neighborhood he’s helped to progress. Thriving Artist Alliance is my way of creating balance between my creative nature and my business brain, focusing my real estate on the people I love to spend time with.  My passion for real estate and the arts led to the founding of  THRIVING ARTIST ALLIANCE to help creative people build wealth through real estate, promote my belief in the power of the Creative Class and work within the Denver creative community; the place where I feel very much at home.

What is something people might not know about you?  I’ve been a guest for an intimate luncheon at the White House.

Tracy, how do you want to be remembered?  More than fondly.  As a woman of influence… whatever that means.