Many successful actors say when they found theater arts they found a haven.

When you first see Crash’s Thandie Newton, it is easy to assume with her stately exotic beauty, talent, and successful career that she always had it easy. However, Newton describes the painful experience of growing up in two distinct cultures and never feeling like she belonged. Challenged with issues of identity, she was able to find peace by “plugging into” various character roles, and being in the moment when she joined the theater.

At 17 years of age, Al Pacino was bored and unmotivated in school, even to the point of flunking most of his classes. But Pacino found a haven in school plays, and this sanctuary compelled him to commit to acting classes and pursue auditions despite dropping out of school. His newfound passion helped sustain him through a period of depression and poverty. In the midst of all the turmoil of his early life, the peace he found onstage proved to be a strong foundation for his prolific acting career—one of the most successful in cinema history.

In theater, it’s not only safe but actually required for the players to fully embrace and freely express human vulnerabilities—those which the world often expects people to mask or numb. Actors must deeply expose their emotional framework without shame or judgment through the vehicle of another person’s point of view or character.

Brene Brown–who studies human connection, including our ability to empathize, belong, and love—calls vulnerability the birthplace of belonging, love, joy, and creativity.

Expressing vulnerability is critical for human connection. This is the heart of theater arts.

Watch Brown speak about her inspirational findings about vulnerability here.