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Calling on the Arts to Thrive During a Pandemic

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    Calling on the Arts to Thrive During a Pandemic

    I got through by returning to my childhood of 60 years ago. Someone once told me that what makes us happy as adults is what made us happy at age 7. At that age, I loved my Lionel train, movies, making up stories, and plays.

    I grew up in the North Carolina mountains. My father was a high school principal, World War II medic, basketball star, and a summer outdoor theater manager. When I was 9 years old, he dragged me to Horn in the West, a play that dramatized the settlement of High County. He thought it would teach me business principles. During breaks from business lectures, I sneaked into summer stock theatre rehearsals. I was stunned by the truths declaimed in Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neill plays. Certainly not the truths I heard and saw at our family’s dinner table. Tennessee? Eugene? You guys hooked me.

    One day I announced to my father, “I want to audition for a role in Horn in the West.” Dad wanted to shield me, concerned I would be devastated if I lost competing against New York actors. After weeks of the air being sucked from me, Dad gave in. I landed a role. When I jogged to him and announced out of breath that I was cast, he said he looked at my face and knew I was lost to the business world forever.

    Outdoor drama led to summer stock theater. Before long, I organized neighborhood children and my cousins to perform in plays that I wrote. My parents’ garage was our theatre and the garage door our curtain.

    At age 9, I learned I was legally blind and…

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