by Lulu Fogarty / May 3, 2020
I’m one of those people. You know, THOSE, people -- always ready with advice for anyone who’ll take it. Keep your chin up! If I would have thought, six years ago, that I’d be where I am now! Trust your path!
I grew up in Greenwich Village in the 1980s and ‘90s, and am a NYC public school kid. I was fortunate to attend extremely diverse schools and community theatre programs where critical thinking was encouraged. My dedication to equity and justice was nurtured nearly everywhere I turned.
I joined Actors’ Equity Association straight out of college and realized that the roles that were right for me (read: too-smart-for-her-own-good-villain-with-a-young-face) didn’t exist. So I tried my hand at playwriting and acted in plays produced by friends and family for years. Then I followed my heart and moved to Taiwan. No, not for a romance, silly. To write another play! (Still writing it, seven years later.)
When I returned to NYC, it took months for me to gather enough odd-jobs to make ends meet. (I was pursuing a self-sustaining acting career. No 9 to 5 for me!) One of the first odd jobs I landed was a game-changer. I was asked to assistant direct a high school musical. In the room with the kids, I realized that I had a bag of tricks that worked with NYC youth. The following year the same gig turned into an acting teacher position, then more teaching artist gigs, then more independent contractor teaching, until it was decided: I would get certified to teach public school full time!
I was accepted to CCNY’s Educational Theatre Graduate Program’s Stream A, which meant that I would graduate with a Masters in Science of Education and certification to be a public school teacher in NYC!
The program was awesome!! I was learning every day, I loved the ensemble, I loved the professors, the readings were life changing (truly), and all the projects were worthwhile. But something wasn’t right. I had insomnia for the first time in my life, and every day I asked myself, “Am I making a horrible choice?”
Then I took Sobha Kavanakudiyil’s “Conflict Resolution Through Drama” course. One night we did this activity:
1. Draw a timeline of your life.
2. Add in life-changing moments: events that made you feel like you couldn’t be the same person you were before.
3. Circle three of those life changing moments.
4. Choose one of those moments and write the story of the moment.
5. Share your story in a small group.
6. Choose one person’s story and make it into a short dramatic piece. The storyteller is the director.
My group chose my moment. It was the day that I convinced my mom to sign me out of middle school so that I could protest the acquittal of the NYPD officers that killed Amadou Diallo.
I got an email from Sobha the next day asking me to come to her office. I wasn’t in trouble, she reassured me. She just wanted to talk to me about my activism.
What followed was a ninety minute conversation in which she advised: you’ll be able to remain engaged in the activism you care about if you make a career in arts administration.
I sheepishly told my friends and family that I would switch Streams. Instead of a Masters and certification, I’d just get the Masters. They were like, “THAT’S PERFECT!” And I made it official with CCNY a couple weeks later.
I continued to take every opportunity to stay engaged in CCNY Ed Theatre events and projects. I participated in the Harlem Children’s Theatre Festival, became an Educational Theatre Club Officer, and volunteered at the AATE 2019 Conference in NYC. I found home in these communities of theatre education folks! And I adopted language to describe what links my own artistry, pedagogy and advocacy. My experience is varied, yet the outcome I seek is always the same: radically transformative spaces in which participants feel that they belong and are not merely “welcome.”
Inspired by the same AATE Keynote Speech by Lizzy Cooper Davis noted above, I spearheaded an Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Access Accountability Committee within CCNY’s Educational Theatre Graduate Program. And then, a couple months ago, it became clear that our lives would turn upside down.
As CCNY students, we live in the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic. Some students had other cities to return to, but most of us are here. We’re here. In the city we love and love to hate. Dealing with loss in the form of death, work, space, access, routine, mental stability, food security, housing security, the list goes on.
In January, I became Project Manager at Bridging Education & Art Together (BEAT Global), which uses Hip-Hop as an arts education tool with youth of all abilities. I’m grateful every day that I have a job that I can work at home. The field of arts education, and the arts in general, is being rocked. My husband, a jazz trumpet player, lost all his work in March and is still waiting to be approved for Unemployment. We find ourselves questioning, “What will happen to the arts? What will happen to artists?”
Six years ago, I could never imagine our world today. It feels impossible to offer clichés when every other day I learn that another former student of mine lost a parent. My time at CCNY affirmed that I must continue to question the world around me and my artistry in it. Those who live through this must honor new voices at the table. We have the opportunity to rebuild the arts and arts education from a space of equity and community justice. CCNY prepares. Let’s make it happen.