Over the past few years, I've been asked to serve as a mentor to theatre students and emerging playwrights near and far. And recently, in a forthcoming interview, I was asked to share my thoughts on being a mentor. Here's a collection of thoughts I've shared over the years.
On Becoming a Mentor:
I've always been the one to beg a seat at the table with the smartest person in the room. This way, I could listen, learn, grow, and be inspired. Many of my mentors are the women I knew in undergrad and grad school at the University of Texas at Austin: Amparo Garcia Crow, Jill Dolan, Ruth Margraff, and Omi Olono Osum. Recent mentors include folks I've met and reconnected with since moving to D.C.: Beth Blickers, Teresa Eyring, Gregg Henry, Morgan Jenness, Jennifer Nelson, Mary Resing, and Dawn Ursula. Some are also my peers: Sarah Bellamy, Ilana Brownstein, Julie Felise Dubiner, Jules Odendal James, and Dafina McMillan. So, when I was asked to be the one folks sat by, I thought wait a second, "How can I be a mentor when I'm still being mentored myself?" Then, I got over that, stopped being both selfish and self-conscious, and shared everything these amazing folks taught me.
On Being a Mentor:
I think about this quote from Benjamin Franklin:
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
I believe that being a mentor different from being a teacher. It’s a process of engaging another person in rich, inspired and challenging dialogue about shared passions, thoughts and ambitions. This allows each person to come to the conversation at different points of entry, different levels of experience and different points of views. You meet in a place of respect and admiration.
On Finding a Mentor:
I started with people that I knew and who knew me. People who could speak to my ambition, enthusiasm, and experience. People whose aesthetic vision I admired and respected, even when it didn't mirror my own. For me, ultimately, it's was essential to find someone who shared my core and practicing values. I found that I was looking for someone to walk with in strength and solidarity. Someone who would challenge and nurture me. These are folks that I trust implicitly.
Good Mentorship Advice:
1. It is essential that you learn how to talk about your work and aesthetic vision. You must be able to market yourself as a theatre professional. This will help with grants and interviews. Your narrative must begin with you who you are, what honed and shaped your voice and what you aspire to be. Be mindful, that there is a line between being clear about your path and being arrogant. It has to do with your intention.
2. There is no success without the community. I am who I am because of my spirit, ambition, drive, and vision, but also because many people along the way believed in me and lifted me up. It is a part of my life service and artistic vision to lift others up as well.
I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!