Still Advocating for Arts

Still Advocating for Arts
by Lisa Mancuso.
Northport Observer.
December 12, 2011.

Dr. Frances McGarry taught English and theater in the Northport‑East Northport school district for more than 25 years and loved every minute of it. She loved helping her students discover their hidden talents, cultivate their creativity and instill in them a love of the arts.

During her long, successful career in the district, Dr. McGarry, 60, taught such courses as Playwriting and Literature Appreciation. She created theater programs for her junior high school students and eventually brought the programs to the high school: Theatreworks Troupe for 11th and 12th graders and Theatreworks for students in grades 9‑12.

“I was born and raised in Northport, my son went to Northport schools and my husband, also a retired Northport teacher, was born and raised here,” said Dr. McGarry. “I had amazing teachers at Northport. They were truly my inspiration.” Dr. McGarry said she was a shy girl, but an English teacher encouraged her to try acting and after playing a Holocaust survivor in a classroom improvisation and receiving applause for her efforts, she was hooked. “I was always grateful to my teachers and always wanted to come back to Northport to teach,” she said.
But teaching wasn’t the 5’2” Northport native’s only focus. Along the way, she earned her doctorate in educational theater at NYU, directed and acted in plays, did voice‑over work and taught as an adjunct and visiting professor in a number of colleges including NYU, Nassau Community College and Brooklyn College.
In 2005, Dr. McGarry decided to retire. It was time to move on, she told herself. Although sad to leave behind her students, Dr. McGarry was excited to begin a new chapter of her life. She knew she wanted to remain active in the arts so she decided to pursue a career with not‑for‑profit arts organizations. She landed her dream ob as an education director but after four years, the position was eliminated due to budget cuts.
Losing that position convinced Dr. McGarry even more that the arts in schools was in danger and is often perceived as a luxury and not a necessity especially in these tough economic times. Never one to remain inactive for too long, Dr. McGarry decided to fight back. She turned her energy and efforts to create a website whose mission is to advocate for the arts not only in the classroom, but in the home and in the world.
After working on it for a few months, Dr. McGarry launched her website, and she is excited for what she hopes to accomplish through her new venture. The site is filled with information and resources pertaining to the arts and includes a link to Dr. McGarry’s latest project, her blog ‘First on Line with Fran’ where she asks people to “. . . join me in discussions on how ordinary people are doing extraordinary things in The Arts to make our world a richer, deeper, better place to live.” Dr. McGarry is hopeful the blog may turn into a television talk show in the near future. She has also started ‘The First 100 Stories Campaign’ on her website and here you can tell Dr. McGarry your own story about how the arts have impacted your life. (Check out the testimonial from one of Dr. McGarry’s former pupils, actress and Northport native Edie Falco.)
Although maintaining her website is nearly a full‑time job, Dr. McGarry is also continuing to pursue her acting career and will soon begin a film project “Ava’s Short” in January. She is also currently appearing on stage in New York City this weekend in a production of At the Top of Our Lungs: An Uncensored Collection of Scenes, Songs & Monologues at the Triad Theater, 158 W. 72nd Street. For tickets to the upcoming show and more information, visit Dr. McGarry’s website.
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