Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Craig Lucas' Commencement Speech

I just came across, on the Huffington Post, Craig Lucas' commencement address to the graduates of the Boston University College of Fine Arts.

Here's a snippet:

School is incredibly hard. Change is hard. Being constantly told what you don't know is horrible. Exploring the unknown, stuffing the brain with new information while emptying it of what is now revealed to be erroneous is all completely horrible. Falling on your face. It makes us feel stupid and encourages more confident students to leap up and show off. One wishes bad things to rain down on them. You know, the ones who got cast in everything, got all the solos, the praise, whose poems are already appearing in the goddamn New Yorker and who handled it all with such grace, one wishes for them to fall down and chip their teeth.

Perhaps it's because: how in the hell are we to face a life in the arts? Did they teach us that? I don't remember that happening, but I cut a lot of classes and I am a very slow learner and late bloomer. Really. So when your parents start asking what the hell is going on, what are you working on?, remind them that Van Gogh didn't paint until he was 27; don't mention Schiele whose huge body of unforgettable work was cut short by his death at 18. Don't mention him. Or Jesus.

What I vaguely remember about my graduation is having to sit and listen to some ancient man, older than carbon, standing before us in red gown droning on and on about the meaning of a life in the arts in America.

Now I'm back and this time I'm up here and, worse still, I know what you're thinking.

You want to drink and get laid, and I want that for you, I really do. (Or was that high school?)It bears noting that some years after graduating, I started to read about the Group Theatre, the seminal theater company which saw its own function in society as being something more than the attainment of success, fame and wealth. Elia Kazan, Lee Strasburg, Clifford Odets and Harold Clurman, the director of Member of the Wedding and author of the finest book on directing we have, and our greatest drama critic.

That was the ancient man who spoke to us.

Never mind. Here's the good news:

"Real" life is no more unfair, cliqueish, competitive, back-biting, frustrating and claustrophobic than college. In my experience. The trouble with experience, of course, is you have to have it yourself, you never take it on faith.

So since I can't spare you the pain and humiliation soon to be brought about by your absolute unwillingness to trust me, I can tell you that through all the pain and suffering will also to be the consolations of sex, art and pursuit of justice. An added perk to these three -- if you fully commit yourself to sex, art and justice - the Republicans will be out on their ass.

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1 comment:

RLewis said...

Thanks for posting that speech, Leonard. It reminded me of how last year bloggers posted Richard Nelson's speech at the annual ART/NY meeting with some volume of comment on how he called out artistic directors, challenging them to stop developing plays and just produce them as is.

Well, he's out of a job now, but last Monday's annual meeting featured a terrific speech by J.T. Rodgers who spoke to all theater artists with poignant and relevent words (rather than pitting one against the other). Now that was an inspiring speech which should be posted throughout the theatrosphere.