Scholars of the Diaspora: doesn't that offer a glorious vision of diversity in cultural exchange? Oak Cliff's TeCo Theatrical Productions, in partnership with the Dallas nonprofit Big Thought, presents a weighty, diverse national caliber "Scholars" Speaker Series in 2012, part of the company's community education and outreach mission.
On Friday, March 16, Gary Garrison, Executive Director of Creative Affairs at the Dramatists Guild of America, spoke comprehensively about the culture of creativity and the often forgotten and invisible playwright. Eloquent and impassioned, Garrison engaged his audience of 30 or so playwrights, producers, students and arts advocates with a mixture of warm, personal anecdote and thought-provoking advocacy and policy address.
In his talk, Garrison emphasized the importance of keeping art intact and stated unequivocally that it is not legal to edit work under copyright without specific permission. He shared that in his five-year stint as Creative Affairs Executive Director at DGA, he has re-learned some worthy lessons on a yearly basis:
- Every artist needs to define "success" on his/her own terms.
- Every artist must continue to dream. Dreams are motivators and liberators.
- Every artist must recognize himself within his community as the originator and voice of the dramatic idea. Never give that up, for anything.
A playwright and published author himself, Garrison spent 25 years teaching playwriting at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, where he thrived as artistic director and division head of playwriting for the Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing. Every summer, he heads a national playwriting intensive hosted at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. The southeast Texas native found his niche in life early on and "dreamed his success" in a big way. Like many young people who do not feel they fit into the "norms" of dominant culture, Garrison was drawn to the theater. "It was a place to be accepted, no matter how geeky or artsy or intellectual or different I was."
He started out as an actor then became a director; playwriting simply found him while he pursued a PhD at University of Michigan. He has never looked back; sharing his passion for writing has become fervent personal advocacy.
"That night I began writing Does Anybody Want a Miss Cow Bayou?...the play was produced a month after I wrote it. A year later it was published by Buffalo Press. Since then it has been produced all over the country in a variety of venues, and every time I see it and hear the actress recite the line, 'I knowed I ain't like them other girls. Hell, I never thought I had to be 'till I seen the sour look on all of your faces...', I swallow hard and relearn my first lesson in playwriting and being a playwright: You're the play."
All who attended Gary Garrison's lively presentation, from senior producers and directors to young writers just starting on artistic journeys, left inspired by his energizing ideas and gained encouragement to dream big and stand up to defend the integrity of creative work.
For information on future Scholars of the Diaspora events, go here.
An article excerpt from "You're the Play" by Gary Garrison is here.
◊ You can also read this report on the author's blog, CriticalRant, which is a TheaterJones media partner.