Poem: Tribute to Garland Lee Thompson Sr. @ the 2015 National Black Theatre Festival


Garland and Star Trek photo

By W. Calvin Anderson

There’s a space between

the stage and the audience that Garland Lee Thompson Sr.

filled for us.

He was the one

who finally dressed our words for display.

Garland took the scripts shaping the “dreaming words”.

He attached the urban and mid-western sunsets to the plays and

and threw even more sophisticated condiments

into the conflicts:

like tropical wind and “last straw”… protagonist rains…

shade from grandfather trees

and wavy glass imagined windows into scripts

playing home

our hopes.

Our words were all grown up after

his blocked techniques, after he

reflected and responded

to raw chemistries and storyboard calamities.

He helped to create the alchemy, the African…the Ira Aldridge and Dorothy Dandridge Ashe’.

Our scripts were fashioned, neat and tidy; strong-charactered,

nice, hip, savvy, concise, dangerous, sensitive, bold and cold.

They were made qualified to carry our royal lot…

Our love, hate, politics, ironies, laughter, pain, tragedies and triumphs.

The grown-up scripts introduced and made our vital human stories pop… their

polemics, costume, dance, songs and reason to be a canvas

set for life.

We were able to then

call it theatre with no technical absurdities.

THEATRE…metaphorically wealthy

and birthed with both noun


reason d’etre.

Dude called forth God’s Trombones and Sophisticated Ladies

gave us tickets for the A train with presidential seats

to Off and On Broadway.

Cowboy hattin brother…brought our muse home

for us.

Garland was a Mid-West-Desert-Stopping-Manhattan-island-dweller


a single



Harlem with our scripts.

Like Shakespeare’s Prospero in the Tempest

he fastened our relationships to classics and classic people:

Phyllis Wheatly, Aldridge, James Weldon Johnson, Charles Gordone, Langston Hughes, Lorraine Hansberry, Tony Morrison, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis,Ron Milner, Loften Mitchell, Lonnie Elder, Amiri Baraka, Ntozke Shange, Charles Fuller to name a few

He made us “stand-out” like pillars for the continued architecture of the Wheatly Ethiope, the Langston’s paradise lexicons, the James Baldwin intensity, rage and intellectual confrontations, the Malcolm and Martin protests and “march-forward-demands-on- law”, the sacred and profane                 prophetic bullet and the blood-stained ballot erected from voter registration cards to the lonely Tennessee balcony and Audubon Ballroom dream.

Garland made our arts, our letters, our sciences wield our treasuries in the Humanities from a distinguished and noble place.

He did this because he could.

He worked and earned the energies and powers like Prospero

He mastered like Prospero

the Arts & Sciences

the… betrayals, shipwrecks, gravities, aerials, calabans, love, destinies and royal interests.

He was anointed naturally. He struggled enormously with a

sweat, blood, life-work sacrifice.

Garland was a hardened Word-Smith.

A bronco riddin’ Oklahoma

Red Nation Cowboy, Star Trek Hoodie. Garland

was a crack-the-whip

disciple of the long gone

show “must” go on with excellence

Sugar Hill … Harlem G type Bucko.


There’s a space between the stage and the audience that Garland Thomson filled.

So how did he do it and what will

we search for now

that was in him?

We mustlook for the fuse to make lettered-words Electric.

We must look for a production-Houdini,

A genre-genie,

a dialectic-shaman

or get together with muse itself?

Whatever we do we know that, His metal, his standards are not fading or vanishing

Anytime soon.

He filled the space, the times, the realities

actually and aesthetically between

the stage and those

he respected and loved.

He trained our words, grew them up and polished off our diamond so that we are to be seen

and recognized worthy of our legacies

ready for our indivisible and quality driven Apollo Rules…audiences both black and white.

Garland filled the space between the stage and the audience with intelligence and love.

Garland filled in the love from me to you.

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