During my public speaking class, I am supposed to give a 2 minute talk on the topic above. I thought that it would be good practice to start here since it is a little bit of exposing myself, my stories and my insights to the entire world. This is my space to be vulnerable with the world, share my thoughts regardless of popularity and, hopefully, connect with people and help them through similar situations or see a different perspective. The change starts within me and through that I hope to help change the world.
While I love and enjoy theatre, having the attention on me completely is absolutely terrifying. My sole motivation in doing this is to help bring to light an issue or highlight things that, in the conservative world, are brushed under the rug. This is exactly why I feel it is important to share these issues and be courageous in doing so. Shows like RENT and HAIRSPRAY brought issues of race, homosexuality and social injustice to the masses. These shows were sang repeatedly on road trips, during painting studio time and listened to anytime I had headphones in.
During the summer of 2014, I had the opportunity to direct HAIRSPRAY. I was appointed by a previous director that had been let go from the organization, Robidoux Resident Theatre. I was also on the board of this organization. Many of the conservatives didn’t participate in these shows calling them, ‘Heavy’. I took on the role of Director and Music Director. I was not paid for both positions. This was my first disagreement with the organization. I had a vision of letting new talent shine during this time since I was abandoned by the original people who filled these roles.
Not only was I treated horribly, I believe that the leadership in this organization had plans to sabotage the entire performance. The prop mistress called the show, ‘not RRT’s proudest moment’ after throwing a lamp shade at my stage manager. They also insisted that I make cuts to the show without going through the proper channels of the rights holders. Now, I don’t expect them to respect rights laws as they completely ripped off A Little Mermaid by completing the score from YouTube which takes a tremendous talent but illegal all the same.
This was my first lesson in politics. I came with a true love of theatre and the space that it creates for people to fall in love with theatre too. I stayed on the board thinking I was protecting community theatre as a whole. I was eventually let go from the board because of having to miss a meeting for a visitation of a family member that had died. The president at the time told the newspaper that the organization was following the bylaws as they were written and that the other two people had resigned prior. I asked for documents in a legal way and was denied them.
Regardless of standing up for what was right, I was villainized and burned bridges with all arts organizations in my community. These actions still affect my ability to get opportunities today because I didn’t fall in line and keep my mouth shut. After all this, I still didn’t give up. I opened my own non-profit arts organization, The Griffey School for the Arts. The executive director of our community arts organization never came to say hi or see what what was going on. A volunteer told me once that she told them that I would never receive anything from Allied Arts as long as she was there. It didn’t stop me.
What did I learn in all this? That no matter how big your Goliath, never give up on what is right. Never let politics be the reason for your silence. How am I trying to conquer fear, anger, thoughts of negativity? I have to let it all go for the most part. There are still emotions that hurt because of my love for the theatre and the arts but I have learned that the world I thought I lived in is not the real world. People don’t want truth, they want convenience and access.
If this is not the world that I want, then I have to fight a battle before I even get to the door. I have to create my own space of honesty and likemindedness. People call that controlling or whatever but it is vision that makes dreams come true. My fears start to fade when I look at these past experiences because I have nothing to fear or lose. I have distanced myself from most people I associated with several years ago not because I hate them or have any negative feelings towards them but because I have different dreams. Just like them, I’m still figuring it out. I don’t have all the answers but I know what is wrong and not for me. That in itself is conquering fears.
To be continued...