Academy Convocation Message: Gulshirin Dubash

Opening Convocation of the 51st Year
September 1, 2012
Gulshirin Dubash, Instructor of Theatre Arts 

(To watch a video recording of this speech, click here and advance forward to 44:45.)  

I started teaching at Interlochen last year and within the year I noticed that there is a persistent conflict within the Interlochen student. Toward the end of the year, a student came up to me and talked about the struggle between respecting the work I do with theatre for social change versus their desire to "make it big." I don’t really remember what my answer was or if it was remotely helpful, however this concept of contributing to the world as a sacrifice where you have to give up your desire to “make it” seemed so contrary to what I believe, that it has been nagging at me. So, when Ted asked me to speak with you today, I thought this might be a good venue for this.

I hate using the words “contribute” or others like “giving back" and "relevant” as they seem rather prissy or affected, but more deeply they reflect the idea that contributing to the world is a compromise in the quest for recognition of your art. As the world expands and grows smaller, the needs on the earth get more demanding. Education, culture and industry struggle to keep up with each other. How are we as artists going to meet this demand and how are we going to keep our art forms alive and respected?

There is a lot you can do with your art that is not restricted to gaining fame on a traditional stage and at the same time creating that need for culture and the arts to be respected in a way where they can survive and YOU can be given your due. Artists are often thought of as being in another world, out of touch, however we all know that to do what we do, we have to be highly systematic, observant and thoughtful. One of the strongest examples of what I am talking about was the great Augusto Boal, a theatre practitioner from Brazil who used theatre games as a way in which to create dialogue between poor famers addressing their needs and ultimately was elected to the Brazilian parliament where several of their laws were implemented using those exact games we play in the classroom today.

So what can you do with your artistic ability when it may not lead each and every one of you on the traditional path to fame? I know that many of you believe that there is only one path to fame, but practically speaking, there are thousands of artists on this exact same path, so if you have the talent, the mindfulness to do good and the creativity to strategically pursue other paths, how much greater is the potential achievement and reward.

Maybe you’ll become the next recipient of the Noble Peace Prize by using your film company to create conflict resolution between warring tribes in Africa or teaching AIDS education through dance. The point of this is not to think of these ideas as enemies of recognition but as vehicles by which you may gain exactly what you are looking for and finally put to rest the conflict within you.

So with that in mind, as you all know I am not famous, but I do work with all my heart for a non-profit called Clowns Without Borders that relieves anxiety and stress in underprivileged areas and war zones around the world through laughter. I thought I would share with you a few moments from this work to see what the potential impact of an art form could be.

And on that note, I wish you all a peaceful, productive and very fun year ahead.