Self-Sufficiency or Trial by Fire

There is little substitute for action. In this game, students are encouraged to sale the seas trial by fireof adventure on their own. Some succeed, while others fail. Both outcomes have the opportunity for knowledge and an experience that teaches.

Learning Outcome:

By engaging in a self-sufficient process, students learn by doing (or through experiential learning). This type of learning is valuable in the arts entrepreneurship process, as students are enabled to own their knowledge as a result of first experiencing it. 

How to Play:

In this exercise, students create a medium-scale production and do so in a self-sufficient fashion. They are given very little formal class time to work on the projects, as most will likely have “survival jobs” upon graduation and need to know how to develop their artistic entrepreneurship endeavors, simultaneously.

For the performance, they are to use a professional or semi-professional space, based outside of the school. They have to do all fundraising and promotion themselves. If they have technical needs, such as lighting or sound design, or if they needed to rent costumes or have other technical needs, that is their responsibility. In short, they are required to be self-responsible for all aspects of their creative process. They must attempt to generate press and are tasked with developing a show of the best quality they can muster, presenting it before a live and paying audience. The larger goals are to:

1. produce quality art and

2. make more money than they spend.

The process (or game) is much like the entrepreneurial process of trial by fire. Some succeed and realize they are more creative than they ever thought possible. They learn to be resourceful, to communicate their story in the press. They raise money for their cause and profit from their art in the end. They gain tremendous personal power, with the knowledge that they can do this. They can make money from their art and, with time, develop their newly discovered skills in a considerable and meaningful way through practice.

Others sometimes fail. They realize their shows are mediocre, at best. They are not able to generate an audience of any considerable size and lose money.  Some of these students are burned by humiliation for a lack of preparedness. They feel the singe of failure, a failure that is often within their own control. Some give it their all and still come up short, just as so many business start-ups do. However, whatever path they choose to create for their process, whatever outcome they come to experience, they do just that: They experience.

Though urged to raise money from others through events and other fundraising means, they are not told they cannot use their own money. If they chose to do so, they were warned of risks of personal financial loss, but there is an important learning process here too: most entrepreneurs first find start-up funds in their own pockets.

This exercise comes to serve as a litmus test for entrepreneurial wherewithal, personality and “stuff”. Some will realize that they do not want to pursue a career as arts entrepreneurs, that the path is far too demanding, intense or perhaps just not for them. Others realize that they can and want to create in such a way, while others go on to serve intrapreneurially, being entrepreneurially-minded within existing organizations.


Allowing students to be as self-sufficient in this process as possible will lead them towards self-creation and a discovering of their knowledge. In discovering what they learn (rather than simply being told), they may come to own their knowledge, which is the most powerful form of learning.

Allow students both success and failure. Any entrepreneur will attest that there is much to learn in failure, perhaps even more than there is in success, as failure has a tendency to burn and like touching a hot stuff, we are reluctant to want to do so a second time.

If you would like to use these games in your own classroom, please do! If you do, let me know how how it goes and if you have suggestions for modifying a game. 

I can be reached at

Creative Commons License
Self-Sufficiency or Trial by Fire by James David Hart is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.


About James Hart

Jim Hart currently serves as Interim Chair of Arts Management and Arts Entrepreneurship & Director of Arts Entrepreneurship at Southern Methodist University, Meadows School of the Arts. Hart is also the founder of The International Theatre Academy Norway.
This entry was posted in Experiential Learning, Learning by Doing, Self-sufficiency and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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