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Students at the University of Georgia's Department of Theatre and Film Studies used their skills to draw attention to a dangerous intersection on campus.

Photo/Brandon Wentz



Follow your Passion in 2007

Sylvia Hillyard Pannell

There are matters about which each of us feels strongly. Then there are those things about which we are passionate -- that drive us to action.

In early December 2006, the faculty and students of the Department of Theatre and Film Studies at the University of Georgia staged a protest to demonstrate the need for reengineering what is now a very dangerous intersection adjacent to its departmental home, the Fine Arts Building.

This was in response to an automobile/pedestrian accident when a faculty member was hit by a car, the second such occurrence in as many years. In both cases the person hit was crossing the intersection legally and was badly hurt. Even so, the powers that be remain indifferent to the hazard the intersection presents. These are by no means the only accidents that have occurred at this intersection.

This was a serious problem even before I arrived in 1977. Many have been hit and even more have had very close calls in this dangerous traffic situation.

Finally, in an effort to get something done, we looked to our own resources. We are, after all, a department of drama. Who is better equipped to stage a protest to call attention to, and propose remediation for, this dangerous situation? It is a time honored application of dramatic resources, isn't it?

There was tremendous enthusiasm for the event. Faculty and students attended organizational meetings and prepared costumes and props. The head of the department of Theatre and Film Studies, Dr. David Saltz, secured the necessary permissions for the demonstration and contacted the press.

For an hour on December 6, from 12:10 to 1:10 p.m., a cadre of students and faculty executed the plan arousing much attention and even some consternation on the part of drivers, pedestrians, and police officers. We received front-page news coverage and hope we called sufficient attention to this critical problem to move toward a reasonable solution.

Another of my passions is Jekyll Island, a beautiful barrier island off the southern coast of Georgia. When Jekyll Island was purchased in 1947 by the state of Georgia from the millionaire owners of the famed Jekyll Island Club, it was designated a state park -- a seaside playground for the people of the state of Georgia -- and it has remained 65% natural and only 35% developed. As such it is a sanctuary for shore birds, loggerhead turtles, sea critters of all sorts, beach flora and fauna, naturalists, and beachcombers. The delicious crustaceans harvested in the surrounding marshes add to the culinary delights of those who visit.

It is an inexpensive destination with activities aimed at delighting citizens of all economic ranks. Alas, after years of offering the public this amenity, this island paradise, seen by developers as Georgia's last frontier is now seriously endangered. It is unfortunate, yet certain, that development will displace the rare shore birds and loggerhead turtles, as well as many many fans of the island.

We who love the island must do all we can to prevent this from happening. Since people with lots of money and political clout are in league with the developers this promises to a tough, frustrating, and potentially heartbreaking battle; but it must be waged.

It is well known that we of the theater and entertainment arts are a passionate bunch. Indeed, we have on occasion been accused of "tilting at windmills." It is in part that very passion that is the bedrock upon which USITT was founded, nurtured, and thrives. Without our love for our profession, our product, our compatriots, our art, and our craft, our volunteer organization would neither exist nor prosper.

As we enter 2007, I offer thanks to those passionate men who founded USITT, a volunteer organization that is approaching its 50th anniversary. I challenge each of you to follow your passions wherever they may lead, and I hope that USITT remains among them.

Happy New Year!

P.S Apropos of this piece, please watch for an upcoming article in TD&T entitled "Passion in Hollywood, an Intern's Story" by Antonina Grib.

Mary Trussell Griffith, a native of Athens, Georgia lived and worked on Jekyll Island for many years. The late Ms. Griffith, an internationally- known artist, received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia.

Photo/Courtesy Sylvia Hilyard Pannell

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