Frances McGarry: Featured Guest on Artistic Resilience

Be realistic. Be transparent. Be authentic.

I was featured as a guest on Artistic Resilience, a new online community that is designed specifically tounite different types of creative people. In this community artists,scientists, entrepreneurs, educators and more can share ideas and collaborateon new projects to improve the world as we know it. Artistic Resilience provides a platform that incorporates ideas, dialogue, connectivity and hard work.  The interview with Claudia Walters, the founder of Artistic Resilience follows:

Name: Frances McGarry.
Stage: East Coast.
Creative drug of choice:Theater, Theater Education, Acting, Singing.
Random fact:I have struggled my entire life with the correct spelling of myname:There is the masculine spellingFrancIs and the feminine spelling FrancEs.As a way to thwart the shame and embarrassment I felt tovalidate my identitywhen the incorrect usage wasmade I decided to address this and other issues that come with growing up in anItalianfamily of 10 (6 girls and 3boys) by creating a cabaret act Frances With An E.Now, what do you think about THAT?!!
Tell me something good:As of March 2011 my position as Education Director waseliminated from a not-for-profit arts organization due to budgetaryconstraints.My entire professional lifehas been devoted to promoting the arts on many different levels.For over 30 years I’ve worked as an education practitioner:first, as a classroom k-12 English and theater teacher, then asan adjunct professor, and finally as an education director for not-for-profitarts-in-education organizations.I’ve conducted a variety ofdrama workshops across the nation, and now unemployed for thefirst time in my life, I have found my new niche as arts activist:raising awareness of the vital inclusion of the arts in ourevery day lives through the launching of my new website.
Where can we witness your creativegenius:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Frances-McGarry-First-Online-with-Fran/297833316931497

aR: Define artistic resilience inyour own words.

FM: Artistic resilience means topersevere at creating a deeper, richer, compassionate world through the artsdespite the obstacles; artistic resilience requires re-inventing, re-imaginingour world through the gift of our innate ability to make art and seek solutionsto the ills of our society.
aR:When you’re feeling a little discouraged in your creative work, whattools do you employ to get yourself back on track?
FM:I make lists:Monthly goals; a one-year plan; 3-year; 5-year plan. This servestwo purposes:first, it forces me to focuson realistic goals and objectives and second, it offers opportunities for me toreflect on how far I’ve come since that last month. It’s also a great tool to“punt” during the course of the month and shift paths without feeling like I’mgoing in too many directions.
I have also learned a valuable lessonsince losing my job:surround myself with aninner circle of friends who are 100% FOR me.Not necessarily in an ingratiating way, but to selectively havethose persons who truly value my talent and believe in my potential andcanprovide insight and balancewhen I feel like a failure.
aR: Yes a support base is essential.You also perform right…? Do you wish to continue that as well as yourbusiness? Are one of these professions a bigger passion for you or moreimportant to you?
FM:I am an actor.I would always apologize and refute that declaration of truth,but after performing in an Off-Broadway production of The Vagina Monologueswith an amazing cast of talented women, I have accepted that this is somethingI’m good at and one that I will continue to pursue.It’s not necessarily a matter of importance; nevertheless, it’sa part of my genetic design and well, why not use it?
aR:You seem to be in love with storytelling. Can you name 2 of yourfavorite storytellers and tell me why you think their way of bringing a storyto the surface is so awesome? (Can be anyone. Singers, song-writers,playwrights, directors…)
FM: Mr. Fred Rogers. The best of allstorytellers for every age. E.B. White.I still weep at the end of Charlotte’sWeb. Any Irish playwright/citizen/actor. The ultimate spinner of tales,Shakespeare.
aR: A few of my favorites as well.So what do you ultimately hope to accomplish with your newwebsite?
FM: To raise national awareness ofThe Arts so that funding remains intact. To keep The Arts as a staple of achild’s education. To keep The Arts as a core mission of government as comparedto road repair. And to keep The Arts as a cultural investment because theNational Endowment of the arts conducted a federally funded research thatshowed $278 billion in economic activity was spun off by the arts in 2009.
aR: Wow!How do you plan to accomplish all of that?
FM: Phase One:Let’s Get Loud:Raise AWARENESS
The purpose of the first phase willbe to establish an audience by focusing first on The Arts and its critical rolein defining our humanity. First Online With Fran will serve to be the soundingboard to let the world know that, “We’re angry as hell and we’re not gonna takeit any more!”
Phase Two:Spread the Word:NETWORK
To prepare a list of guests, I amsetting up appointments with people who I feel are getting the job done. I aminterested in the work you are doing and would like to feature you and/or yourorganization on First Online With Fran. We can talk about goals and objectivesand the obstacles you confront either as an individual and/orby the organization. I am particularly interested in yourpersonal commentary and why you have chosen to pursue this cause.
Phase Three:Go Global:GO OPRAH!
Who better to get the job done, thanOprah?We need to convince her thatthe Arts need her support and know-how to thwart the decline of arts inclusion.Her new programming network:The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) will be the means to the end.Here’s how:
To redefine the shape of television,CEO Christine Norman summed up the programmingmix in simple words and phrases:“Aspiration. Nurturing. Newness.In short, Winfrey’s fans want to see their hero helping makepeople’s dreams come true in a new, always-on TV environment.” (The PostStandard January 1, 2011 page C3).
First Online With Franwill be the FIRST TV Talk Show that will bring sustainableNational attention to the vital inclusion of The Arts in people’s lives byinviting guests from all walks of life – the school custodian, Lincoln Center,struggling/successful actors, lemonade stands:ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things to make thearts the fabric of our existence. Let’s make The Arts FIRST ONLINE WITH FRAN.
Phase Four:Change:Alternative Solutions
By raising awareness of how the artsare important to our existence through First Online With Fran we can change theperception that The Arts are viewed as optional, an extra – fluff.No Arts? That’s like saying let’s cut the air for which webreathe.Through the program, FirstOnline With Francreative alternativesolutions that are being implemented can be offered to show how The Arts are avital component for educating the whole child.
aR: Well you definitely have it mappedout! You mentioned before that you thinkthe arts enhances the professional as well as the personal lives of others. Forinstance, having exposure to the arts can make a businessman a bettercommunicator, etc… When did you first come to this revelation?
FM:Personally, it transformed my life from a shy, insecure child toa protector of the ARTS UNIVERSE.Seriously, after writing an integrated arts curriculum for ahigh school program I began to get feedback from students after graduation.How Theater Troupe saved their lives; helped them to acceptidentity issues; helped them to be a better lawyer, architect, manager, etc.I have witnessed over the years how theater can provide lifeskills through hands-on learning.I’ll never forget a student, Lauren, who was the designatedproducer for a our first major drama production on the school auditorium stage.There were a lot of politics and problems she had to face inorder to get approval for the use of the space.I told her, “Welcome to the world of business. Figure out howyou’ll get past the red tape.”She returned a few days later with a dispenser of red tape.“Here it is,” she said.I laughed, not at her, but at my assumption that she understoodthe idiom.Priceless learningexperience both for her and for me. It was these kinds of challenges thatafforded each student to experience and allow each of them to take ownership oftheir learning firsthand.
aR: What’s the most important adviceyou can offer to another creative person trying to seek their own goals?
FM: Be realistic.Be transparent.Be authentic. Know your strengths, weaknesses, and enemies. Besurrounded with an inner circle of friends. Be vigilant.Be diligent. Be willing to turn your will over to your spiritualCreator, whoever and whatever that may be to guide you to your ultimatedestiny.
aR: Thanks for being so realistic,transparent and authentic in this interview.And best of luck to you in your new and exciting venture.I believe your goals for your business are relevant to us all.
FM: Thanks so much for this. Takecare.
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Testimonial #9: Chelsea Hoffman

How has your life been indelibly touched by a teacher who utilized the arts for whatever reason and acknowledge how they were instrumental in breaking the mold to allow you to become who you are today?

Photo by the lovely Shannon Davies

My life has been shaped by many teachers, all of whom left an indelible impression on my life. I remember one of my first acting lessons came from sitting in on Dr. McGarry’s class – I couldn’t have been more than 6 or 7 years old. The students, all in High School, were playing an improv game that I was allowed to join in on, and the scene I was given was a driver that was pulled over by a policeman. At that age, I was prone to fits of giggles whenever in the presence of an older and therefore obviously cooler kid (luckily I grew out of it!) and couldn’t stop giggling. Dr. McGarry told me to think about the relationship and the situation – if a policeman pulled me over, would I really giggle? Probably not – I would be terrified! This small but valuable lesson has stuck with me, along with countless others in my time in both public school and then later Drama School at NYU’S Tisch School of the Arts

How are the artsre-igniting your community and sparking innovation and creativity in your localschools?

 The Arts are so incrediblyimportant to our children and our schools. I currently live abroad, and peopleare always shocked and jealous when I tell them that I was able to studycontemporary drama, Shakespeare, jazz, electronic music, and audio engineeringall in my public school. Here, if a child wants to pursue ant of those things,it has to be done on their own time.

What many people don’trealize is how applicable skills gained in the arts are to jobs outside theaccepted creative field. Besides the obvious connection between drama andpublic speaking – think how often people are asked to give presentations in ALLwalks of life, and how dull they can be if the person has no sense of audience- the arts teach problem solving, critical thinking, and gives tools on how toengage an audience. These are things that any businessperson would be well offto have in their repertoire. Music has been shown to improve math ability, anddancing is a great way for the kid who may not be into competitive sports tostay fit. To use a terrible clichéd expression, if one thinks outside the boxjust a little one can see that the arts benefit students beyond making themmore cultured and sensitive individuals (traits that should not be overlooked).We are so lucky in our country to have the opportunity and the precedence tooffer education like this – we must take advantage of it.

Photo by the lovelyShannon Davies

Testimonial #8: Theresa Salerno

How has your life been indelibly touched by a teacher who utilized the arts for whatever reason and acknowledge how they were instrumental in breaking the mold to allow you to become who you are today?

The arts, to me, growing up was my savior. Being able to perform and take myself out of my world to be in another was life saving to me. I enjoyed so much all of my school musicals. I also enjoyed the flute, marching at Hofstra with my sax, and my weekly piano lessons. I truly feel without my music and performing I would have never made it. As you read along your notes on a page you are instantly into the magic of the arts.

I also feel that music will heal you. To this day, I am thankful that I was able to enjoy and appreciate the gift of music .With this blog you can make a difference and leave your foot print on this earth to let people know that there is hope. Many kids today don’t have an out. Music and performing must go on!!!! Maybe it will help them to escape from the real world for a little and have fun exploring another.

Still Advocating for Arts

Still Advocating for Arts
by Lisa Mancuso.
Northport Observer.
December 12, 2011.

Dr. Frances McGarry taught English and theater in the Northport‑East Northport school district for more than 25 years and loved every minute of it. She loved helping her students discover their hidden talents, cultivate their creativity and instill in them a love of the arts.

During her long, successful career in the district, Dr. McGarry, 60, taught such courses as Playwriting and Literature Appreciation. She created theater programs for her junior high school students and eventually brought the programs to the high school: Theatreworks Troupe for 11th and 12th graders and Theatreworks for students in grades 9‑12.

“I was born and raised inNorthport, my son went to Northport schools and my husband, also a retiredNorthport teacher, was born and raised here,” said Dr. McGarry. “I had amazingteachers at Northport. They were truly my inspiration.” Dr. McGarry said shewas a shy girl, but an English teacher encouraged her to try acting and afterplaying a Holocaust survivor in a classroom improvisation and receivingapplause for her efforts, she was hooked. “I was always grateful to my teachersand always wanted to come back to Northport to teach,” she said.
But teaching wasn’t the 5’2”Northport native’s only focus. Along the way, she earned her doctorate ineducational theater at NYU, directed and acted in plays, did voice‑over workand taught as an adjunct and visiting professor in a number of collegesincluding NYU, Nassau Community College and Brooklyn College.
In 2005, Dr. McGarry decidedto retire. It was time to move on, she told herself. Although sad to leavebehind her students, Dr. McGarry was excited to begin a new chapter of herlife. She knew she wanted to remain active in the arts so she decided to pursuea career with not‑for‑profit arts organizations. She landed her dream ob as aneducation director but after four years, the position was eliminated due tobudget cuts.
Losing that positionconvinced Dr. McGarry even more that the arts in schools was in danger and isoften perceived as a luxury and not a necessity especially in these tougheconomic times. Never one to remain inactive for too long, Dr. McGarry decidedto fight back. She turned her energy and efforts to create a website whosemission is to advocate for the arts not only in the classroom, but in the homeand in the world.
After working on it for a fewmonths, Dr. McGarry launched her website, http://www.francesmcgarry.com and she isexcited for what she hopes to accomplish through her new venture. The site isfilled with information and resources pertaining to the arts and includes alink to Dr. McGarry’s latest project, her blog ‘First on Line with Fran’ whereshe asks people to “. . . join me in discussions on how ordinary people aredoing extraordinary things in The Arts to make our world a richer, deeper,better place to live.” Dr. McGarry is hopeful the blog may turn into atelevision talk show in the near future. She has also started ‘The First 100Stories Campaign’ on her website and here you can tell Dr. McGarry your ownstory about how the arts have impacted your life. (Check out the testimonialfrom one of Dr. McGarry’s former pupils, actress and Northport native EdieFalco.)
Although maintaining herwebsite is nearly a full‑time job, Dr. McGarry is also continuing to pursue heracting career and will soon begin a film project “Ava’s Short” in January. Sheis also currently appearing on stage in New York City this weekend in a production of At the Topof Our Lungs: An Uncensored Collection of Scenes, Songs & Monologues at theTriad Theater, 158 W. 72nd Street.For tickets to the upcoming show and more information, visit Dr. McGarry’swebsite.

At the Top of Our Lungs Opens This Week!

In case you haven’t heard, there are fourteen fabulous women shouting, At The Top of Our Lungs! opens this week.” It’s sassy, it’s smart, it’s good for the soul.  Support our mission to raise money and revitalize the spirit of local organizations that empower under-served women & girls.
Thursday, December 8 at 7 PM 
Saturday, December 10 at 9:30

Sunday, December 11 at 3 PM

Click here for more info and to buy tickets:
http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/209106