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When Art Inspires Art

This week I had the absolute honor of taking on a dramaturgical exploration of playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney and his body of work.


In a short summary of his bio, McCraney is from Miami where he was raised in Liberty City, an inner-city housing project known for it’s devastating poverty. From an early age he found solace in the arts, attending after school programs, a prestigious public arts school, earned his BFA in acting from DePaul University in Chicago, and eventually received his MFA in playwriting from Yale School of Drama. While in his graduate program, he was mentored by the great August Wilson. He is most well known for his trilogy, THE BROTHER/SISTER PLAYS. The trilogy is inspired by Yourba Mythology out of West Africa and by the work of Spanish dramatist Federico García Lorca. The trilogy takes working class, black americans, and places them in this extraordinary mythic universe. Within this world he allows an exploration of diversity within diversity. His language has a folklore poetic-ness to it. It’s human. It’s raw. It’s rhythmic. It’s breathtakingly beautiful.

This man has an incredible bio and has already proven himself to be a vital name in contemporary American Theatre world. In July 2017 he will begin his work as chairman of the playwriting department at Yale School of Drama. He will also succeed Paula Vogel as the new playwright in residence at the Yale Repertory Theatre. But beyond all of those great and glorious things, he is an artist who invests deeply into the community. A strong advocate for Miami, McCraney’s writing is not his only form of advocacy, he gives of his time, of his talent as other forms of advocacy. I LOVE THAT! He could easily not. Easily.

What I love most about what I’ve learned from McCraney, is that he is an artist who is inspired by all art forms. And his art inspires other art forms. They are in dialogue with one anther. They cohesively feed off one another. They find life within each other. As if all art surrounding him and his work were an offering of inspiration. For example, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, inspired the movie “Moonlight,” which inspired this incredible dance from the Alvin Ailey Dancers.

Which leads me to self reflection questions that I invite you to ask yourself…

Where do you go for inspiration?

Where do you go to fill your artistic well?

What excites you?

What enchants you?

What moves your soul?

When is the last time you attended an artistic event outside of your own discipline?

As a playwright, I’ve realized that when I show up to my pages with an empty well. It is much harder to write. My pages end up feeling like work that I’m forcing myself to do. And not say that every time you take part in your discipline it should feel easy, or enjoyable, or good, or (insert positive adjective here). But what I mean to say is that when I don’t invest in my artist self, my pages are void of a soul because my artist well is quite simply, all dried up. If you find yourself stuck, check in with your artist well water levels. If you’re dry, go exploring! Find something that enchants you, big or small, and experience it fully. Whether it’s wandering into a comic book shop, or taking an afternoon to ride your bike down new streets, or going to an open mic night, or seeing the “Lego Batman Movie,” or whatever it is that peaks your interests. As artists it is vital that our levels of production and consuming have a sense of balance to their relationship.

Produce, Consume, Produce, Consume. Consume, Consume, Produce, Produce. If we are always producing, producing, producing, it will be impossible to sustain our artistry. I have found that when I try to overproduce my artist well dries up and I have to work extra hard to get back to a balanced place.

McCraney’s work filled my artistic well in ways I was’t expecting. His artistry is inspirational. His life is inspirational. Can you tell I’m a fan? So, I invite you to do something this weekend that fills up your artist well in a new and exciting way. It’s not a new to-do to add to your list, but instead it’s an invitation to pursue enchantment!

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