Friday Phone Call # 64
So my friend Clyde Valentín is my guest today on the Friday Phone Call. I seem to be in a mood around friends in transition. As with Deb Cullinan and Todd London, Clyde recently began a new adventure after a long stretch as the Executive Director of The Hip Hop Theater Festival. He has taken on the job of leading a new initiative at Southern Methodist University in Dallas: The Arts and Urbanism Initiative. Clyde is very much in the conceptual days of this project—he has been in place for just a few months thus far. I love hearing him think out loud about the path at SMU, the path for HHTF and him, and the role of a university in community. Clyde is also a key organizer of the Latino Theater Commons but we will have to get back on the phone another time to get that whole story.
David Dower: Hello Clyde.
Clyde Valent: Hey David, how's it going?
David: Oh, yeah, I forgot to warn you that I have to do that fake intro.
Clyde: I know, I'm just following your lead here.
David: You did great. You did better than me. Right? If I don't tell people, I'm always embarrassed. Let's just jump into it. Clyde Valentin is at SMU these days. Many of you will know him from his years ... You were a decade with the Hip-Hop Theatre Festival, yeah?
Clyde: Well over a decade. Thirteen years.
David: Thirteen years. Okay. Now you are running the arts and urbanism initiative at SMU in Dallas. Yes?
Clyde: See, it is a mouthful, isn't it? Yes.
David: It is a mouthful. Southern Methodist University, Meadows School of the Arts, turning an idea into reality. Yeah. The idea, talk to me about the idea for this-
Clyde: We had a pretty innovative, creative thinking Dean here at SMU, Jose Bowen, who is soon to become the president of Goucher College, and Jose, from the minute he arrived here at meadows and SMU, started pushing the envelope, and something about essentially creating a movement. That was his mantra, we're creating a movement here. They brought in Creative Time a few years back as a Meadows Prize winner. Meadows Prize is an award that's given out by the school, with one of the things I'll be administering moving forward, to spend some time here in the city in some way and activate students and the city with ideas or projects. Creative Time produced a report, which is available on their website. It's a report on Dallas, and they had surveyed lots of stakeholders around the city, and came up with a few points, and in many ways that helped to plant the seed to what this initiative will become. Right?
David: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Clyde: About two or three years ago, Jose and a team of faculty members from the arts department, theatre, music, and dance, got together and they started doing research. They hired a consultant who had done some work with Creative Time, to spend a year thinking about what this center could look like. They referenced examples in higher ed and beyond, around the country, where work like this was happening. In this toolkit that emerged, there was the Summer Leadership Institute by Urban Bush Women. There was Michael Rhodes Center for Civic Engagement, companies like the Los Angeles Poverty Department, various examples of work that kind of at multi-disciplinary levels, that are engaging communities in tangible ways. Right?
David: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Clyde: They came up with this idea of a Center for the Arts and Urbanism, while at the same time acknowledging the challenges that came with the term 'urbanism', but it's kind of where they had landed.
David:What are some of those challenges?
Clyde:Urbanism, to an architect or an urban planner or a policy person means something very specific. It's aesthetics, it's a form of practice, whereas for someone like me, who comes from kind of this hip hop culture, very urban background, I kind of just prescribe urban culture to kind of a sense of urbanism. Right?
Clyde: I've had colleagues here who I'm meeting for the first time say or ask me, when I say what I'm doing, "I'm really interested in architecture, so this is exciting." We'll engage with architects. Teddy Cruz came out to speak to a group of students and to some community members last fall, for example, under the initiative, but that's not our sole purpose. Right?
Clyde: We need something that incorporates urbanism, but I think is much broader with respect to art and creativity and its engagement with communities. Right?
David: Mm-hmm [affirmative]. Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Clyde: Art that willingly and enthusiastically embraces various disciplines, projects, rather, that do that, to kind of react or activate a specific issue or challenge in context with community. That isn't necessarily urbanism. Right?
Clyde: That's just like a way to make art, a way to make things.
Clyde: I think that, to me, is more important ultimately when we come up with a name for our center as we launch it, than to get lost in definitions and terms.
David: Yeah, but terms lead us to particular directions. I'm even thinking about, we have moved into talking about the Urban Circuit as another way to talk about the Chitlin Circuit.
Clyde:Right. Right. It's all these ways that we just sort of reword things to lead us one way or another or hide something or another thing, and you have, you've picked a term that people can adopt for themselves to mean a range of things there. That's interesting. I mean, obviously, what's HowlRound, you know? When you talk about the name of something, who has any idea, and then try to describe it, it's even more confusing. I'm sure you wind up in the same boat trying to say, "Well okay, but move past the name and I'll just tell you what we're doing," and then people- And then we know what HowlRound right? HowlRound has actually been one of the examples that I've been sitting here to my colleagues who may not know who you guys are. You know?
David: Mm-hmm[affirmative]. Outside of the theatre, it's safe to say, eighty percent of our students and theatre faculty know what HowlRound is, at the very least, as a blog, as a source of information about work today, contemporary source of information about work and how it's being made. You know?
Clyde:Yeah. That's completely true. There's something to be said about what it is that you're doing and that then speaking for itself, but also the stickiness of a name, which is essentially just bragging and communications, and I think one of the other challenges with the Center for Arts and Urbanism, or the Arts and Urbanism Initiative, is that it's not very sticky. It's kind of a lot of syllables. You know? I think part of my background as a hip hop guy who came up in the '90s, we were very conscious of brands and branding and communication. A lot of that stuff is taught in our communication and advertising programs now. We don't want to do ourselves a disservice while we're trying to activate-
David: You're still in the process of naming it?
Clyde Yeah. We're still in the process of naming the center, as we're living in what we're calling a soft programming phase.
David: Yeah. It's so-
Clyde: I approach the work here-
David: Go ahead.
Clyde: Go ahead, David. I'm sorry.
David: No, no. You go. You go. You're the-
Clyde: There are a couple of things that happen, and I'm fortunate in that I have a great group of colleagues here at the Meadows School of the Arts. I feel very, very fortunate, A, in the fact that Will Power was thoughtful enough to send me the job and asked if I would consider applying. Then B, when I had a chance to meet the team members here from the various faculty that have been intricately involved in the formation of this project to our development and marketing team and their belief in the mission, and the importance of this kind of work. I'm definitely lucky. At the same time, there's some real challenges. SMU has a very specific relationship to the history of the city. It's no doubt a prestigious university with an important track record, but Dallas, as a relatively younger city in our nation's history, still has a lot of growing to do. The question of growth and how it grows and what it grows into, the role of this institution and some of the others that are here in the city, and how they play a part of that is all part of the equation, for us as we kind of do our work. When I came in early and they asked me what was the first thing I wanted to do, I basically said I want to listen. If we're being genuine about engaging multiple communities and creating opportunities for our students to get real world experience so that as they kind of study their respective practice and discipline, be it in dance, music, theatre, art, communications, advertising, journalism, the Meadow school kind of covers all those bases. Then, we've got to start just by talking to folks and seeing what they're up to.
The other thing we need to do is acknowledge that there's some good work already happening on the ground. We're not reinventing the wheel here. One of the first things I started to do was just essentially look to, from a programming standpoint, augment things that were already happening, you know, that aligned with our mission, while we did the internal work of figuring out the institutional components of our center as we launch it. You know?
Clyde: Fortunately, folks were open to that, and I think we're already seeing kind of the dividends from a social capital standpoint of that approach. Right?
Clyde: Where I'm increasingly finding myself at the table for more and more conversation around the future of the city, various projects, various initiatives, you know, new and interesting collaborations that I can then bring back here and tie into various departments to the benefit of our students.
David: Mm-hmm [affirmative]. When you were at those tables, Clyde, are you finding that you're personally new to those tables, or is SMU also new to those tables, like you, as SMU is unusual for those conversations?
Clyde: I would say that it's definitely a combination. They're new for me because I now have a level of access, given my particular perch here, that I didn't quite have back home in New York City. It's also relatively new for the university. This question of university's role in the city is something that I think many higher ed institutions are asking of themselves now, especially as they ... Within the twenty first century, what's our purpose in relation to our community and what surrounds us. I don't think that's any different here, but it's still a large institution. It moves the way it'll move, but there are individuals here. There are other deans. We have Dean Chard from the Simmons School, which is the school of education, who is very civically engaged. What isn't new for me is how I move through space. Right?
Clyde: My ability to kind of jump around and just be naturally curious about things that maybe have nothing seemingly to do with my immediate job as a curator or producer of work, but have, in many ways, everything to do with it.
Clyde: I find myself in these places, and I'm there, now representing the university. Right?
David: Yeah. Right.
Clyde: It definitely is a combination. I know that why-
David: I guess I was wondering, when you find yourself there, how often has the university been there before? It sounds like you're doing stuff that is new for SMU too.
Clyde:Okay, so yeah. In that context, not very often.
Clyde: Right? Sitting down with Bart Weiss in Dallas video fest, for example, which is a digital film festival that also has an eye towards experimental film. Video fest has been around for almost thirty years. You know? Me, at the table, the way I'm at the table talking about the work that we're talking about hasn't really happened before.
Clyde: You know? Then it's the sustainability of that, so really going to the table from the very beginning, not thinking about one process, but thinking about the consistency of the relationship, and putting that forth from the very beginning is different than you coming to the table saying, "This is what I want."
David: Yeah, or, "This is what we're doing and we'll be gone when we're done."
Clyde: Right, which is not a value that we're gonna have as a center. That's simply not how we're gonna do things. You know?
Clyde: We're looking to create longer term, more meaningful relationships that'll have impacts that we can't even anticipate yet. You know?
Clyde: That's pretty new.
David: That's a lot of responsibility. I went through a similar kind of onboarding experience of being both new to the city and then in conversations where Emerson wasn't necessarily experienced or expected sometimes, and trying to figure out, how do I both calibrate myself to what is this community that I'm in now, for myself personally in my own values and my own vision and goals, and stay in sync with what Emerson's, for this conversation, if I knew more. You know? It's a balancing act of being new in two directions at once. You know?
Clyde: Yeah. Absolutely. I've been here now four months and it's definitely been an accelerated sort of process, and it needs to be an ongoing one, but you know, we need to be careful too because we can't over-promise and then under-deliver. You know?
David: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Clyde: That's the worst way to begin a relationship. I think, fortunately, my experience at the Hip-Hop Theatre Festival, working as collaboratively as we worked all these years has really primed me for something like this. You know?
David: Mm-hmm [affirmative]. Can you talk a little bit about the decision to take this job and what that's meant for you in relation to the festival?
Clyde: Sure, I mean, we hear so often, specifically in theatre for the legacy issues around organizations of color, and I wouldn't say it was specifically a black theatre company or Latino theatre company or an Asian American theatre company, but I would say we're a highly inclusive organization. We are an organization of color, and I was always conscious of what could happen if I was around for too long. You know?
David: Uh-huh [affirmative].
Clyde: I even remember thinking, early on ... We got started in 2000. We incorporated as a 501-C3 in 2005 when we were well on our way to producing multiple festivals in multiple cities, and started developing that national footprint. That got really hard and we didn't quite have the sustainability model and all the pieces we needed in place organizationally. Even at that point, I started thinking about what needed to happen to create an environment where I could step away from it. You know?
David: Yeah. That was when?
Clyde: This was like, '07, '08.
David: Uh-huh [affirmative]. Yeah. Right. This was before the economy tanked on us, right?
Clyde: Yeah. That affected everybody. It didn't affect just us. That affected everybody, but it's interesting because when '08 came along, whatever we're calling it, the great recession or whatever, when that particular collapse occurred, that disruptive period, I began to see that as an opportunity to strengthen the organization. Right? Because we were small enough and nimble enough, I thought we could come out of it on the other end, whenever that was, 'cause no one quite knew what that was gonna be in '08. If we were able to say we came out of it stronger, then really our balance sheet's stronger, our infrastructure's stronger, some more resources on the table. Whatever that meant for us, if we were able to do that, then that was a good threshold to cross, from a leadership standpoint. You know?
We did that. We moved offices. We started saving money on rent, but we had a better quality of life as an organization. Then we started thinking about space and what that space would look like. We started thinking about our rebrand and we raised money during that time to actually open and rebrand the organization, so we have an umbrella name while we're still producing the festivals. We came up with a plan and I felt really good. I wasn't looking to make a move, actually, because I was really busy. It was only because I was open. Right? I had participated in January of 2013 in this thing called The Rockwood Leadership Institute, and I have to acknowledge Rockwood for really priming me psychically to be open to what was out there, number one.
Yeah. That was in January. That was a week-long retreat, and then there was a follow-up in June, which was another week, and it was specifically for arts and culture leaders around the country. I kind of had that residue of the training and openness and a clarity of purpose, and how it really extended beyond the job I had at the moment, which would be executive director of Higher Arts/Hip-Hop Theatre Festival. I was walking into dinner with a colleague Jenny Prickett from Baryshnikov Arts Center. It's been a while. We hadn't spoken, and I had literally just gotten off the phone with Will Power and Will was like, "I'd like to send this to you," and I was like, "Sure, sure, sure," half paying attention. At the very end of the dinner with Jenny, she was like, "Wow, you have all this amazing stuff going on," but Clyde, three years ago, you told me that in three years you wanted to make a transition.
David: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Clyde: All of a sudden Will's call had that much more resonance.
Clyde: You know, and I actually paid attention to his email and looked at it in a much different way. You know? Things kind of lined up and when I saw the job description and I saw what this center was intending to do, I saw alignment, and I said at the very least, I can see what happens and do a little more learning around myself and explore this process seriously, and hopefully help them think about this job and its director in a way that's gonna contribute to this thing being a good thing. I went in with that kind of intentionality, very relaxed, and just really free-flowing with ideas as to how this could work and how this could look. Six months later, that led to an offer.
David: Yeah. Uh-huh [affirmative].
Clyde:Then I had to think about what that really meant for the organization, and again, the fortunate thing here was that folks knew, since it was an ongoing thing, they had done their due diligence and they knew we were a small organization. They knew I was a co-founder. They know the bad things that can happen when founders step away from small organizations. They had asked me what projects I had on the table. There was an expectation that a director coming in would have projects already on the table, that this wouldn't be someone who didn't have things going on. This is someone who had things going on, so I was able to outline for them what I thought a transitionary period would looking. Initially I had said, six months and I'm working on this, I'm working on OneMic, which was the thing we just co-produced with the Kennedy Center this past April, working on a commercial project, and then something I'm going to direct. These are kind of the three things that are on the table.
They were okay with that, initially. They were very okay with it, and then I spoke to one of my mentors, and he was like, "You need to fast track that a little bit. I think six months doesn't do you justice, doesn't do them justice, doesn't do the organization justice, does do Hip-Hop Theatre Festival justice. You've got to move a little bit quicker than that." Then I turned around, and I revised it to everyone's favor, ultimately, and I said, "No, I can do this in three months." Part of this meant ... Really, before I even said yes, I had to speak to our stakeholders. I had to sit down with Camilla Forbes who is now producing assistant director. Camilla stepping up to the leadership plate, along with our internal staff. Tiffany moving from an associate to a general manager, she has the chops and the skills to do it. The intention of still hiring another full time administrator, checking in with our board members to see kind of where they were.
It was an opportunity, actually, for some of them who were there 'just for me', to step away so that we can fill in people who would be there for the organization, and the mission, which is really what we needed. Then along the way in those conversations, it also kind of came out that ... Oftentimes you hear executives or founders joining the board is a bad idea. Right? Because, they tend to still prescribe their own ideas around what the programming, or the culture of the organization should be like. I think for the most part, that's true. In this instance, because so much of the institutional knowledge was still very much in my head. We agreed that there needed to be some time where that extraction would happen and can get relayed to our administrative staff, or just our staff in general.
On the programming side, 'cause I had been holding on ... I think today I told someone I had four jobs at Higher Arts. I was the administrative person, the co-curator, the marketing person, and the developing person. That's four jobs. Right?
Clyde: Yeah, so it was like ... We had put a plan in place to take a few jobs off the table already, so that was no need to necessarily change that. It just would look a little bit different. Right?
Clyde: I thought it would be an interesting kind of cast overall to test around our own resilience as an organization, to kind of see what would happen. We recruited three new board members during this period around this idea of we're gonna be here for the organization, we see its value, we want to support this, which is awesome. It gave me an opportunity to affect the culture of the board in a way that I wasn't able to do as an executive director. Our board meetings have been very different in 2014 than they've been ... ever. You know? Oftentimes, as the executive director, I have to chair the meetings in addition to then doing reports. That's, again, almost like another job. I was almost the co-chair of the board and all of that has since changed and is continuing to change, including how we've recruited board members, we're also recruiting potential chairs. Right? I'm recruiting people who have the leadership qualities to take the reins when the time is right.
I don't know if we've ever recruited that way, and have had the head space to do that and sit there as a board member and then also hold everyone accountable saying, "We're all gonna make sure that we meet our commitments to this organization." Right? I get to say that now, in a very different way than I couldn't say as an executive director. You know? I've also been very explicit with the title of interim board chair so that we know, come the ... We can see where we are, and we're lined up in position to then actually assign a board chair, and I can stick around and still fulfill my initial three year commitment, but not solely in terms of the leadership, so we're making room for that. Someone might say, "Well the letting go part is really hard," and David, you and I can talk about C-Space, I mean it's a whole other-
David: Yeah, exactly.
Clyde: I think the letting go part hasn't been hard for me, and I started that process in September as we were beginning the transition.
Clyde: I was like, "I don't want to talk about programming in '14-'15. That's up to you guys. I'm gonna be here through our One Mic festival, which literally bridged fiscal years. Everything else is on you. I want to see a draft budget by this time. I want to have the budget approved by this time, and the decisions that get made on the day to day are gonna be up to you guys. When I need to check in and I need to kind of lend my institutional memory so you don't repeat the mistakes of the past, I'm gonna do that," and I have. I've had to pick up the phone and say, "Hey, I just want to say this because it's important that you know that moving certain folks from employee status to work for hires doesn't make sense because New York State is gonna charge us anyway with a penalty. This isn't how we want to save money."
Clyde: "I understand you want to save money, but not this way. Let's not make that mistake. Let's make new ones." You know?
David: Right. Yeah, yeah.
Clyde: It's been really good in that context. It's been very, very healthy, I would say. Despite our smallness, I think it has been that sort of advantage where there's still a lot of upside, and that's a good thing.
David: Yeah. That's a big move. Thirteen years, that's how long I was at Z Space, and I'm happy to hear you so settled in it. It's a big move for the organization. They seem like they're managing it, but it's really a big move for the individual. I talked to Deb ... It's funny because I'm having a whole bunch of these conversations, 'cause I talked to Deb Cullinan recently and to Todd. We all have these stories and comments in this big shift. How has it been for you? You had a big community of artists, but also a social community in New York, and how's that, is that comparing to what you were prepared when you left for Dallas? Are you settling into Dallas as well as-
Clyde: You know, we had a sendoff party in December, so it was kind of a sendoff/holiday party at the Studio Gallery space in East Harlem, and they had a few surprises for me, which I ... Again, I didn't plan it. I left the plan of what the party's gonna look like-
David: Leave that to them.
Clyde: They got me to cheer up, which I'm thankful for, and I have a whole ... Obviously I still have family in New York. That's not gonna change. My wife's family is from New York and she's a native New Yorker as well. Disruption is never easy, period, point blank. Again, if you have enough resilience, and I believe that we have that, as individuals and as a unit, that you come out on the other end on your feet and okay.
Clyde: You know? Actually better than okay, good. You know?
David: Yeah. You have a situation there that's not unlike where Deb went, and also my situation in coming here. You have Will, who's been a long time artistic and, I'm sure, personal collaborator of yours.
Clyde: That's right.
David: You go into a situation where you have a conceptual collaborator on the ground with you when you get there. Deb has Mark Joseph, and Carl and I actually made this move together.
David: That's a huge piece of the puzzle, is that you're not isolated conceptually from yourself there.
Clyde: No, no. That made a big difference too. My very first time here, the very first trip I made was right after the TCT conference here in June, you know, a week or so after. It may have been right after July 4th weekend even, or just before that, something like that. I don't quite remember anymore, but Will and Marla picked me up from the airport.
David: Yeah. Right.
Clyde: They drove me around. You know?
Clyde: That helped to know that they were here and we had some folks and there was a community. We had a small dinner at their house the very first week I got started, during the transition period where we were looking for apartments. We went over had dinner with some of them, with Will and Marla and some of their friends, who are now some of our friends. Right?
David: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Clyde: That makes it a little bit easier, but what was also good, I think for both of us, was that it wasn't like I had this whole social network here that was disconnected from us as a couple. You know?
David: Yeah. Yeah.
Clyde: I think it was an opportunity for both of us to kind of generate new social networks together and individually. Right?
Clyde: It is like a different sort of playing field and that's been fun so far. I think it also can get exhausting where everything is new. You're always meeting new people. It depends on your personality type, so I like to nurture my relationships. That's just who I am as an individual. When it's always new, that's where I use the word exhausting because sometimes it can be like ... I don't know if you felt this way when you went to DC versus Boston. Right? On top of the fact that you're starting something that is essentially an idea that you have to manifest into a reality, which is a whole other layer. You know?
Clyde: Yes, I'm at an institution, but this center was around for a year as an idea in conversation, and then they put a face on it, and that face was mine. You know?
Clyde: The time was passed, and now it's taking shape. Then there's the work. It was interesting going into arena that, part of what everybody knew was happening in that timeframe when I arrived, but it wasn't actually articulated as part of what I was doing, was that they were building that building, and we were already had raised the first hundred million just the week before I got there. It was under way, then that came to define the first five years of my time there, was really all focused on, how do we get from here to the end of the first season in the new building. We were gonna be out of the building for two years. We were gonna come back, it's gonna be a new organization in that building, and what are we gonna look like and how are we gonna be? That kind of defined that whole time, was taking the idea of the building and making it something that was actually in motion.
David: Right, and you know, you did that work with a lot of people. I was one of those folks that you did a hardhat walkthrough where you were like, "Here's gonna be the new theatre and we're gonna arrest this thing over and we could talk about how it's gonna look. We're starting the conversation now so it doesn't happen after we move in."
David: You know? That's what you did for the first five years. You know?
Clyde: Exactly, and that's funny because the name was also part of that whole thing, it was like, well they've named this building the Mead Center for American Theater, how is it a center for American theatre, and it's not the center, it's a center. What does that mean and who do we talk to about making that real? That was part of what we were doing, was just bringing different people through it to say, "What does that mean to you and what would it mean to you?" I remember our early conversations there about how Hip-Hop Theatre Festival would use the building.
David: Right. Right, and I think we had a good one year where it sold pretty good.
David: You know, it happened once, but we were like, "This is good. This is good."
Clyde: That's part of the thing, right? Ideally, that is a thing to avoid if at all possible, so the one in a row-ness of things. As you're sitting there in SMU, for SMU and at these tables in Dallas trying to figure out, well what's the thing that's gonna be sustained and how do we both identify and then move into a thing that will actually be a relationship and not just an event?
David: Right. Right. Part of that, for us, is A, getting our students excited about the possibility of plugging into real projects that are local and national, so they can kind of gain valuable experience outside of the classroom and outside of what they're learning, so it's like real learning.
Clyde: SMU is not really located, it's not exactly an urban campus. It is in the middle of the city, but it's not an urban feel to the campus at all. No. There's no walking across the street, besides to get lunch, to check something out that's cool. For the students to engage, they have to make a commitment to get somewhere to do that engagement. It's not just happening.
You have to get up and go. You literally have to get up and go, and you have to figure out transportation. It's part of what we're gonna be figuring out. Part of what we're figuring out is, where across the city can we anchor ourselves? Right? As opposed to one neighborhood, which has been the strategy for some other things that are happening here at SMU, again this goes back to my background, I'm like, "No, we're all city. We're gonna go all city from the beginning because that's how you do it." I'm kind of bringing part of that energy, saying, "No, no, no, no. I'm not afraid to collaborate with somebody in south Dallas and somebody in Oak Cliff and another person in Oak Cliff and then somebody in Victory Meadows and someone right here across the street from campus and somewhere in lower Greenville," and be intentional about that, and then at the same time, again, back to the consistency of it and say, "What's gonna stick?" Barring unforeseen circumstances or changes, because those happen too, so when that does happen, you communicate effectively and say, "Hey, this is not gonna continue because ..." right?
David: Yeah. Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Clyde: Again, I go back to our experience in DC where there was communication that happened and it was understood why things changed. It had nothing to do with us at the end of the day. I think that's healthy because we've since gone on to collaborate on other things. You know?
Clyde: The relationship continues. We met before you were at Arena Stage. You were working on something around C Space.
Clyde: I think that's the long-term commitment to the kind of work that we want to do, that you always have to have, whether things work out or not. You know?
David: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Clyde: Whether a project sticks or it doesn't, you don't owe it, you don't close the door to the point where it's locked and bolted and it can never open again.
David: Yeah. Yeah, I think that's really useful for people who are trying to figure out how to collaborate. The ideas are big and they're not gonna manifest with ease, or exactly as envisioned in the first round, so knowing and having nimbleness, and then forgiveness, kind of resiliency around the changes as they happen, and the way the thing actually comes to be is crucial for people to just make a path. Yeah.
Clyde: Precisely. It's too easy to give up.
David: And having that generosity with each other.
Clyde: Yeah. It's too easy to give up and say, "Oh well, that didn't work." I mean, having been on the receiving end of that, often, under the context of the festival in the early days, where it felt like we were chewed up and spit out. You know?
Clyde: It's not a good feeling. That's like what happens to an individual artist or maybe to a playwright whose first play doesn't necessarily resonate at the box office for the subscribers. You know? There's no reason why you shouldn't keep writing and doing what you do, and there's no reason why a theatre company, if they believed in your work the first time, shouldn't believe in it again. Right?
Clyde: It's too easy to walk away from things when they're-
David: And ideally all you've done is learn. The first time, you've learned so much. If you never use that learning, then what were you doing?
Clyde: Exactly. It's like it's foolish almost, so I know we're not taking that approach here with the stuff we're doing. We've had some nominal success so far. We collaborated with the South Dallas Coastal Center and Vicki Meek around the presentation of the El Castellano project, Fatboy, which is an NTP project. It just happened that, that was coming into town and I was here. Literally it just kind of aligned in its own way, but there was interest to kind of extend the residency portion of that work, so I know Theo, I know his strengths, and I was like, "Well we're gonna do an intensive, and that intensive is gonna be for dancing theatre students who are interested in multi-disciplinary work, and it's gonna be for local artists, and we're gonna create a room that doesn't always get created here at the Meadows school. The undergraduates are gonna have an opportunity to see and meet artists who are living and working in the community, doing their work in a way that maybe they aren't necessarily familiar with and they get exposed to this artist, and we'll buy tickets to the show."
I was there on a Saturday night. This was Memorial weekend. I would say the South Dallas Cultural Center's black box is about 100 seats. There was about seventy people, seventy-five people in the audience so it was a nice house, and about half that house was in the South Dallas Cultural Center for the first time. It immediately reminded me of Dance Place with the Hip-Hop Theatre Festival, when Carla Perlo always surveys the audience beforehand and says, "How many people are in Dance Place for the first time during one of our shows," and people raise their hands. Right? It's always a good feeling because that's the mission, in part, is to kind of get people out and into parts of the city that they otherwise wouldn't have gone to. You know?
Clyde: For me, that's an early indicator that we're gonna be doing the right thing here, by Dallas and by our students.
David: Dallas, I mean, we just had the week on HowlRound focused on Dallas, and it was a very active timeframe, and you've got Will there who's the resident writer with the Dallas Theatre Center. There's a lot going on for you to kind of-
Clyde: Jonathan wrote some great pieces, I think.
David: Yeah, the comments producer, yeah. Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Clyde: Yep. Yep. Very exciting. He and I had a chance to break some bread and talk about the work here and what's needed. I'm convinced that one of our program initiatives is gonna be in support of local artists and existing projects, so again, we're not gonna outright produce your work, but we're gonna figure out what it means to be pivotal in getting your work to a point where you want to get it. Right?
David: Mm-hmm [affirmative]. Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Cylde: That might be a combination of cash, plus students, and other connections that we can help you make, but I know that we can get that. We can help the local ecology. It might be also technical assistance and support because I've seen that as a need already, here locally, on the ground.
David: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Clyde:I think that's part of kind of the entrepreneurial nature of this particular job right now, is understanding where the needs are and looking to fill them. You know? That's in part, what we're doing, so I'm feeling good.
David: Yeah. Well, I'm so glad for you. I'm glad that you're feeling good there. I'm glad it's an exciting frontier. I was so happy to be down there and see you in your new environment a month or so ago. It looks like it's just a great project for you and I really look forward to outcomes and the progress reports. Maybe I'll call you at intervals and see how it's going.
Clyde: Yeah. You know, it's interesting, the last forty-eight hours, if I could share this with you, and the folks might be listening. I was at something yesterday with a colleague at the Community Foundations of Texas, and it was a talk with the director of the Dallas Museum of Art, Max, and then Kevin from the Dallas Theatre Center, and one of the philanthropists, local philanthropists, board member of both organizations. The mayor kind of introduced it and the first thing the mayor kind of recognized was the importance of arts in the city. He shows up to these events, and that to me ... I was coming around in New York and we had mayor Bloomberg who unquestionably supported the arts, so now I'm in another city where we have another mayor who unquestionably understands the importance of the arts. Fabulous, right?
David: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Clyde:That conversation immediately turned into one of access, and I was completely surprised that representatives from these large institutions, which again, have their constituents. I think the DMA, Dallas Museum of the Arts boasts like 80,000 members. Right?
David: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Clyde:It's free to go. You can go anytime of the year to see it. It's a little different for Dallas Theatre Center, but Dallas Theatre Center is beginning to work with some local theatre companies. They have Will there working with individual playwrights. They just did the series on HowlRound. Just the sincere, meaningful approach that exists here in this particular city is, I wouldn't say unique because there are obviously people around the country who are thinking and talking and doing and working on these things, but the climbing here and the level of growth opportunity is such that I couldn't have picked a better time to come to Dallas and make some good things happen.
David: Great. You're right, unique is too big a word generally, isn't it? I mean, things aren't necessarily unique. They're distinctive, and they're powerful, but they're not ... It's not uniqueness that is the value here.
Cylde: Right. Right. It isn't. It is the sincerity to want to see some change and see some growth on this front. We have a chance to contribute to that and we will. The timing is everything, as I've told my colleagues. The timing is everything. The timing is right.
David: Yeah. Yeah. Alright, we've been at this to the limits of how long people can listen, so I'm gonna let you go, but I am gonna follow up with you at another point because we have more to talk about. We didn't even get into the theatre comments, and thank you for all your work on that, by the way.
Clyde: Oh yeah, that's right. It's really exciting. Talk about new leadership and collaborative models.
David: It's incredible. Yeah.
Clyde: So proud to be a part of that. So proud, and it's like it's a life of its own. It's a unique organism, and I think there's another model there to follow to help support our overall ecology because not everything has to be driven by the institutions, and this is very much something where it's being driven by a collective of individuals. Right?
Clyde: We'll leave it at that because that is another subject, but I think as folks look around and figure out the future of a specific genre or group, I think there's something to be said about what's happening with the Latino Theatre Commons. That's something to point to and study.
David: I do too, and we'll come back to it, you and I.
Clyde: Okay. Sounds good. Thank you David. I appreciate this.
David: Thank you sir. I appreciate it as well. Thank you for your time.
Clyde: Nice talking with you, ciao. Bye.