This summer, Forklift Danceworks created Givens Swims, the final performance of My Park, My Pool, My City. Givens Swims featured the everyday movement of the people who maintain and swim at Givens Pool. From neighborhood teens to community elders, the story of the pool was told by people who have long lived, worked, and played around this historic place. In this series of blog posts, hear from four interns who joined Forklift’s artistic team for the performances.
From Arturo Hernandez, BFA Musical Theatre student at Molloy College and CAP21 Conservatory.
Growing up in East Austin, I found that there weren’t very many opportunities for me to express my passion for the arts. It wasn’t until middle school and onward that I really fell in love with music when I was given the choice to commute to Lamar Middle School. Lamar was a Fine Arts Academy in North Austin and had so many outlets for students’ artistic endeavors. With the rest of my family members continuing to go to the local east side schools I found that I was quickly forming different interests from the rest of my siblings and cousins. I ultimately fell so much in love with the arts, I left home to continue my study in New York City and to pursue a degree in Musical Theatre. I’m currently going into my senior year at Molloy College and CAP21 Conservatory where I’ve met and trained with so many talented and inspiring people. Through my training and experience of performing I’ve seen what theatre can do for a person, whether it’s a reminder of their strength, an escape from their problems, or a reason to cry.
When I joined the Forklift team as an artistic intern I was delighted to find that the next project, Givens Swims, was right around the corner from my home. I walked to this pool with my brothers and cousins growing up so it meant a lot to me to come back and return to the pool I haven’t seen in years. I will say I was skeptical about the amount of people we would be able to get to perform but if I knew one thing it was that East Austin is full of caring and loving individuals. As the weeks went by the cast got bigger and bigger and I was starting to see something I never thought I’d see. East Austin was being given a reason to perform, to tell a story, to showcase their artistry. I thought to myself and knew that if I was given this opportunity when I was younger I would’ve found my passion so much sooner! Cast members would make small comments like “I want to do this everyday” and “this is so much fun!” It was easy to forget where I was; these were the same comments my fellow actors and I make while performing as part of our work in NYC’s musical theatre conservatory.
My community was finding that same love I have for arts and performing. My job became so much more important to me as I realized I wasn’t just instructing choreography but giving these people an opportunity to be part of a show. During the last weekend of shows I was approached by Steven Brown, an outgoing, enthusiastic, built man with a football background. He performed in many sections of Given Swims, taking on roles as a side diver for the opening song “The A”, playing football in a section called “Splashin’” with mostly kids , flipping off the diving board, escorting for former pageant winners in “Miss East Austin”, and synchronizing with a large group performing kickboard choreography. He told me about his son, an aspiring performer who is active in many of Austin’s theatre outlets including a program at Zach Theatre and the select ensemble of the Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards. These were all things I did throughout my high school days in Austin and I was shocked Steve hadn’t told me sooner! He then expressed to me that since he came from a football background he had struggled to truly understand the life his son goes through as a performer. Through his experience collaborating on Givens Swims, he said he was able to understand the power of the arts and feels like he can be more of a support for his son and his endeavors with performing. Steve and others like him were able to find this appreciation for art because of Givens Swims. They were given the opportunity to tell their story through their own experiences. Though they didn’t know it, the artistry that was always in them was shining through and showcased in their performance. They are the art of East Austin. Connecting people to art is what this project is all about for me. I feel so much gratitude to be a part of it. Nothing in the world is more fulfilling than helping and inspiring those in your own community. I’m proud to say I live in a community amongst so many other beautiful artists.
Steven Brown performing in Givens Swims. Photos by Amitava Sarkar.