Act of courage, commitment and intellect

I am writing in response to a column published on the Wilmington News Journal website by Gary Abernathy on Jan. 11.

In this column, which takes aim at Meryl Streep’s recent acceptance speech at the Golden Globes, Mr. Abernathy opines, “It has long been acknowledged that as a group, actors are not exactly the sharpest tacks in any box.”

I’m a proud son of Wilmington (Ogden to be exact) and now live in Cambridge, Massachusetts where I am the line producer for the American Repertory Theater. Needless to say, I was surprised by Mr. Abernathy’s blanket characterization.

I work with actors every day. They are kind, compassionate, complex people. They are charged with studying and understanding the human condition deeply. They spend their lives telling stories to congregations of strangers. This is an act of courage, commitment, rigor, and most importantly, intellect.

Jacques Maritain said, “Since art is a virtue of the intellect, it demands to communicate with the entire universe of the intellect. Hence it is that the normal climate of art is intelligence and knowledge.” As theater professionals we know this in our core. We have an intense commitment to story telling that drives us to continue creating powerful work for our audiences everyday.

Ms. Streep says “disrespect invites disrespect; violence incites violence.” My parents taught me these lessons: that we support our neighbors, that we love strangers, and that we have empathy and compassion for people who are different from ourselves. These are not part of a radical liberal platform; rather they are basic principles of human interaction. They are far from the ideology that Mr. Abernathy classifies as being “somewhere to the left of Anarchists.”

Furthermore, as someone from Wilmington, I must object to Mr. Abernathy’s ignorant tirade. Perhaps he is unaware of the rich history of theater in our community. I am able to do what I love for a living because of institutions like Wilmington College, the Murphy Theatre, Summer Theater, Bare Boards Theatre, Kids and Company, and all of the people who run and participate in those organizations.

To my friends and artists in Wilmington, please keep creating beautiful work for this community. You are valued and your work is important.

Mark Lunsford

Cambridge, Mass.