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Mark Steward, Adrienne Kelly-Lumpkin, Tamara Kissane, and Charles Phaneuf with big post-event smiles at the 2020 State of Arts and Culture in Wake County event.


Hello, friends!

This past Wednesday, January 29, 2020, I was formally introduced to our community at the State of Arts and Culture in Wake County event. This was a beautiful gathering that included performances by Black Box Dance Theatre and the Raleigh Boychoir, as well as inspiring remarks from our local arts leaders and awards bestowed for Business Support of the Arts.

And…guess who got an award for Arts Education?

The 2017 Piedmont Laureate, Mimi Herman! Wonderful and well-deserved. Congratulations, Mimi!

Mimi also had the task of introducing me and tee-ing up my 4 minute talk.

Kermit the Frog as Tamara the terrified Piedmont Laureate.

As you might imagine, I spent a significant amount of time considering how to officially begin my year as Piedmont Laureate. What was my message? What do people need? What can I offer? [Side note: This can be a slippery slope into a psychological quagmire.]

Ultimately, I decided to KISS it — Keep It Simple Sweetheart — and extend an invitation to our community to amplify love and joy for local playwrights and the writing process. Not overly complicated, not sophisticated, but definitely genuine…and hopefully, relatable.

[Besides, it’s an election year; we need to infuse our conversation and interactions with as much love and joy as possible. Let’s start today.]

You’ll see my remarks below as they were spoken to the supportive audience at the State of Arts and Culture in Wake County event. I hope they speak to you and that you join me this year.

Piedmont Laureate events and programming are already in the works. I’ll be in touch when I have dates and venues. Stay tuned.

With gratitude,



Piedmont Laureate remarks

Thank you Mimi. Thank you to the City of Raleigh Arts Commission, Durham Arts Council, Orange County Arts Commission and United Arts Council of Raleigh & Wake County for this appointment. I am thrilled and honored. This is a beautiful event and we have much to celebrate.

Let’s start with some audience participation. I’m going to ask you 3 easy questions — all three are about love. Love is easy, right? You raise your hand if your answer is YES.

  • First question: Have you ever been in love with a place? (I see from your faces there are lots of stories there!)
  • Question 2: Have you ever felt love for a piece of writing — whether it’s fiction, nonfiction, poetry, short stories, novels, a script — raise your hand if you have been moved in your heart-place by writing? (Yes!) 
  • Final question; Can you call to mind a writer you just love and appreciate for their work?

(My spouse is out there. Where are you babe, is your hand up?)

Let’s take a few seconds to feel some gratitude together for that place, that writing, and that writer you love. I’ll count to three. You emit gratitude. 1, 2, 3. (Oooh, that was lovely with an unexpected sound effect!)

Thank you for your participation.

I applied for the Piedmont Laureate position because I’m in love. In addition to my spouse, I’m in love with North Carolina and our growing region of the world. I’m in love with the people who reside here, including a multitude of creatives, artists, and writers of all genres and mediums. 

I’m in love with writing plays and audio fiction, and what’s more I love encouraging others to experience the soulful benefits, the exquisite struggle, the gentle bliss, the crucible of putting words on a page…and then sharing them…and then hearing them performed by others. Playwriting has transformed my world internally and externally. Experiencing a powerful script — whether it’s powerfully funny, gut-wrenching, or thought-provoking — is one of the greatest joys of my life. 

This year, in 2020, Piedmont Laureate programming will certainly include readings of new plays, panels, interviews, workshops, podcast episodes and events I haven’t even conceived of yet. There’s much to look forward to. But more than anything… quite simply, in 2020 I hope the Piedmont Laureate programming will continue to spread the love for the bounty of local playwrights and collaborators, and share the joy of writing including the process, the product, the pitfalls, and the promise.

If you weren’t able to put your hands up at the beginning when I asked you about the place, writing, and writer you love, then by the end of this year, I hope you’ll be able to raise both of them high.

It’s my great pleasure to serve in this capacity and I hope you’ll join me. Thank you.