Carrie Coon and Tracy Letts Present Schooler Lecture

April 16, 2015

By Abigail Esposito

ALLIANCE, Ohio – Igniting passion for the arts and self-empowerment, Tony Award nominated actor Carrie Coon ‘03 and Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and Tony award-winning actor Tracy Letts enlightened audiences with their innovative insight on the arts at the 2015 Schooler Lecture at the University of Mount Union.

Embodying both the enthusiasm for theater and women’s rights, Coon demonstrated a firm call-to-action for women.

“While I was at Mount Union, I didn’t think that people contributed enough to the class, especially the women,” Coon said. “I was shocked by the lack of curiosity around me. I was afraid of failure and I hated that women were taught to be goody-two-shoes and not to ruffle any feathers – and that’s ridiculous.”

Letts is also a keen activist for women’s rights as he models all of his female characters after the influential women in his family.

“I have strong women in my family and they can have the ugliest of behavior,” Letts said. “But it is the heart of drama that women can illustrate on an exceptional level.”

Constantly searching for strong female roles that depict an accurate portrayal of the modern woman, Coon desires to enforce gender equality through her acting.

“I want to be a woman advocate for women,” Coon said. “I am going to keep asking and challenging. I will blaze the trail for women and gender equality in my art.”

Calling attention to the low government support of the arts, Letts stated, “Beware a government who does not fund the arts and education, for they have no compassion.”

Letts said that the freedom of artistic expression has always scared the government; however, he sees potential for improvement.

“The future for American art is strong, but we need help and support to sustain artistic expression,” Letts said. “We need diversity for females and race, we need different voices in our culture.”

Letts highlighted the true value of live theater.

“There is a distance in a movie theater where the theater stage has connection, depth, and a lasting value,” Letts said. “Theater has an honest and immediate expression, there is not substitute for the real stage; it has a different kind of impact.”

Contributing to Letts’ advice for success, Coon addressed the importance of fear and failure that occurred in the process of her success.

“Everyone is afraid to fail, but you have to overcome your fear to have honest work,” Coon said. “Accept that you will make mistakes, but know that they will lead to something great.”

Coon elaborated on her claim by stating that one must cultivate the present.

“We become present when we are caught up in a creative act,” Coon said. “You must be present and listen.”

According to Coon, cultivating the present is to be active and aware in life.

“Breathing asks what I bring to my own life so I can make an honest appraisal,” Coon. “It creates space for me when I realize I am wrong.”

Ending on a heartfelt note, Coon referred to failure as “stumbling,” since she believes the word “failure” has a negative connotation despite the fact that it can be a learning tool.

“As you are stumbling along, trying to breathe – be present, seek help, accept your strengths and weaknesses, clutch your plans close to your heart and face fear head-on.”

Schooler Lecture 2015

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