Russell Granet interviewing artist, Ernesto Neto, at the Park Avenue Armory. Russell Granet hosting a cultural exchange concert at Carnegie Hall (far right).
Speaking
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TEDxGotham

October 15, 2010. Apologies for the sound quality.

The Right Brain Initiative 2010, Keynote Speaker, Portland, OR

The Guggenheim Museum, Speaker, New York, NY

Face to Face 2010, Opening Speaker, New York, NY

I was very pleased to be asked to open and close Face-to-Face 2010. As some of you know I have been the Face-to-Face raffle MC ...

Carnegie Hall, Concert Host, Cultural Exchange Program (Turkey, India, Mexico)

Teaching Artists Webposium, Panel Facilitator, Austin, TX

AER Video

Teaching Artist Webposium, Panel Facilitator, Seattle, WA

Arts Every Day, Keynote Speaker, Baltimore, MD

Queens School for Career Development, Commencement Speaker, Queens, NY

My favorite person when I was in high school was Mrs. Henrietta Eddy, the principal’s secretary. Mrs. Eddy and I spent a great deal of time together. She would be sitting at her wooden desk with her perfectly coifed hair that smelled of aquanet and I would be sitting across from her on a long wooden bench. Between Mrs. Eddy answering phone calls we would talk about the latest gossip in the school, teachers, other students, her husband and children, why I was sent to the principal that day, and most importantly, we would talk about theatre. I thought of Mrs. Eddy when I first visited this school last winter. I came here to plan an event with Ms. Wasserberger and Mr. Katz that we were co-hosting. The event was an opportunity for other schools from the district to visit and see first hand what an exemplary arts program looks like in action. The guard asked me wait for Ms. Katz in the office and there I sat - on a long wooden bench. Later that same day, I watched a rehearsal of West Side Story. I watched as a young Tony and a young Maria sang the duet Tonight. The commitment, concentration and talent of the actors in the musical was inspiring. I was not only impressed with Tony and Maria, but with the entire cast. They all supported one another and cheered for one another in a way that only theatre can provide. Like many people, I was raised by a single Mom with five children at home and no husband to help. So trust me when I say, theatre is what got me through high school. Theatre is what moved me. I was not very serious about many things in high school, but theatre was the one thing capable of washing over me and transporting me to a different place, chances are a better place. When I was in high school I wrote a letter to the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, in response to President Reagan’s proposed budget cuts pertaining to the arts and public education. I wrote “these federal funds go toward keeping museums, art exhibits, and theatre productions alive in our area and I feel that the public would suffer a great loss if these funds were reduced any further”. I went on to say, “as a taxpayer I would like to pay the lowest possible tax. However, I am not willing to sacrifice our cultural heritage to do so”. My love and commitment to theatre gave me the opportunity to be passionate. The most important thing is that I believed in something. My school auditorium was not unlike this one and I remember auditioning and being cast in our spring musical, The Music Man. I was cast as Mayor Shinn, a man determined to put an end to the arts in River City, and my school days changed forever. The success of that role gave me enormous confidence both socially and academically. It allowed me to be myself and more importantly, to have something that was uniquely mine. After graduating from high school I went on to college and studied communications. I thought a degree in communications was more practical than a degree in theatre. I had dreams of becoming a newscaster or a game show host. Like many times in the past, I went back to sit on the long wooden bench to talk with Mrs. Eddy. She was the one who reminded me of what I loved best, theatre. It was on her recommendation that I apply to graduate school. She suggested that I apply to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. The Academy takes 10 Americans a year, and when I expressed my concern Mrs. Eddy said “the worst they could say is no and if you don’t apply it will most definitely be no”. In the fall of 1997 I was accepted to study classical theatre at the London Academy. I went on to have what would be one of the best years of my life. I lived and breathed theatre. After moving back to New York I quickly realized what the words show business really meant. I found out that my love of acting was no match for the realities of working in classical theatre in New York City. It is to say, it was not right for me. Although I never pursued theatre professionally it doesn’t mean that my education was wasted. I use what I learned in school everyday. The arts provide a lens by which I can see a world where people are dedicated, smart and talented. Theatre, and the arts in general, are not just “fun” - they are essential to our success and well being. The arts enable us to be compassionate and understanding of others, to make us whole human beings. For me, it was theatre, for you it may be technology, medicine, or law. Whatever it is you decide to do - believe in it, believe in it fully. Mrs. Eddy encouraged me to pursue what I loved best and it changed my life. Hundreds of others may want to do what you want to do, but remember you are unique. Life is not a dress rehearsal. Live each day to the fullest and never allow anyone discourage you.