Thursday, May 31, 2012

To the Class of 2012: A Letter from Producing Artistic Director Beth Harper

Thank you for reminding me, dear friends, that it is a thrilling, exhilarating, and passionate time to be a part of the living arts. Especially when around me I view with despair the decline of civil discourse, the demonizing of political difference, and a crayon box that seems to have lost all of its colors except for two. I can’t think of a more important time for the arts. I feel blessed. I have the honor of coming to "work," to mentor and commune with you; the kind of humans with the guts to commit two years of your precious lives to immerse yourselves in an exploration of what it means to be human, not from your own point of view but as seen through the eyes of another, and insist that we find value in seeing the world, in touching the world, tasting the world through viewpoints other than our own. You 12 artists have created an ensemble and cultivated and replenished an all too rapidly vanishing supply of social empathy. You have nourished a collective ability to stay curious about each other and the work at hand and to converse and understand each other across political, racial and religious lines. You make me feel hopeful.

To the class that will follow you, I say: stop, look, listen, observe. For it is not that these 12 people have set the bar too high. They set it and worked tenaciously at reaching that bar every single day. They will be the first to tell you that it is not an easy task to stay awake, alert, curious and out of your own way at the same time. They just knew it was important, they made it a communal goal and they did it. Just because it’s not the easiest choice doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

Now as you leave here, it is your turn to pay it forward. You will encounter scores, hundreds, of new budding artists desperate to learn, desperate for someone to pay attention to them. You will see them hanging outside your stage door, desperate for permission to be heard- to be listened to in a deep ongoing way. Mentoring the next generation is the work we must all undertake. To respect the achievements of the past we must all strive consciously, passionately, stubbornly to reward the aspirations of the future. And ironically, as one who has mentored for over 30 years, I am here to bear witness that, it is those you will mentor who will be the greatest mentors to you. You reminded me of that every single day.

In closing, class of 2012, I speak collectively for all your guides and mentors when I say: it was our pleasure. Every hour. Every minute. Every second. Every perplexing, confounding, frightening, exhilarating, passionate, eye-opening emotional roller-coaster-ride moment was worth it. It was a pleasure. You are a pleasure. I told you from day one that our job was to eventually kick you out and that time has come….get out and fly like the beautiful birds that you are.



Beth Harper
Producing Artistic Director
Portland Actors Conservatory