Actress and director Jasmine Guy took the arts community to task on several fronts at the annual Women in the Arts panel luncheon sponsored by Synchronicity Theatre at the Georgian Terrace on Wednesday.
A last-minute panel replacement for casting director Alpha Tyler, who was unable to attend, Guy said she moved to Atlanta four years ago but has grown discouraged by the dearth of work she has found here.
“My mission is to leave Atlanta so I can find work,” she said, half in jest.
Guy, who has directed and performed in productions for Theatrical Outfit and True Colors Theatre, complained about attending fundraisers so lavish that their budgets could have paid for staging multiple productions.
And she expressed frustration with fans who ask her why she doesn’t take her plays on tour – the answer is money, of course – and she encouraged arts patrons to become more knowledgeable about how the business of arts works.
“Maybe it’s because I’m black, but everybody always asks me, ‘Why don’t you work with Tyler Perry?’ “Well, I live in Atlanta. Tyler Perry knows where he can find me.”
She went on to hold Tyler Perry up has an example of someone who has helped change the business model for arts funding. He started out staging plays that were so profitable, he was able to take them on tour, she said. And the tours were so profitable, he was able to turn them in to movies, which he in turn sold to Hollywood.
“He didn’t go to Hollywood asking for money to make his movies,” she said
And finally, she said, if Atlanta wants to be a city of world-class culture, it needs to act like one.
“Y’all need to quit asking me to work for free,” she said.
In addition to a panel discussion on “Currency, Culture and Community, the 11th annual Women in the Arts panel luncheon recognized novelist and playwright Pearl Cleage, and Woodruff Arts Center CEO Virginia A. Hepner for their contributions to the arts.