We had the good fortune of connecting with Renita James and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Renita, why did you pursue a creative career?
I chose to pursue a creative career because I could not see myself doing anything else. Ever since I was a child I have always wanted to be involved in the arts in some capacity. I began as a performer, but wanted to do something more meaningful, so I made the switch to theatre education and haven’t looked back. I wanted to make a difference and for me, I have found being involved with the arts the best way to do that.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
First and foremost I am a theatre educator and at the core of the work that I do is asking big questions. I then work with students to explore those big questions. I do a lot of devising work with young people, especially during this pandemic. I’m finding that young people aren’t always being asked how this time is affecting them so I do my best to open the door to the conversation. I started my career as an actor, that was what I wanted to be. I had some success performing but I wanted to give back in some way and I wanted to experience something more. I did a show at 7 stages called “FML: How Carson McCullers Saved My Life,” and I really credit that experience with changing my trajectory. It was the first opportunity I had to experience the marriage of social commentary, education, and theatre. It was incredible. After that show I moved to Saint Louis to complete a theatre education fellowship and the rest is history. As I’ve continued to work in theatre education and theatre in general one of the biggest lessons I have learned is that I am not the smartest in the room. I am not too big to learn from a 4 year old, and I am not too big to say “I don’t know, but let’s learn together.” I try to provide space for folks to share and to try and to explore. I want the world to know that I am someone who is always fighting to make sure everyone feels seen, honored, loved and respected. I want every space I create to be one that fosters community and connection. I want every space that cultivate to be safe for everyone and sometimes that means we have to have courageous conversations. And believe me, I HATE confrontation. I have anxiety and anytime I am in a situation where I have to have a hard conversation my voice shakes but it matters.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
So If my friend was coming to spend time with me in the city we would have an awesome time! I would go to Revolution Doughnuts because when I friend comes to town, you treat yourself, and the salted caramel bacon doughnut literally makes me cry. The first time I ate it I involuntarily cried. It was beautiful. Honey Bubble for bubble tea. Leon’s Full Service. It’s just the best. We’d hang in downtown Decatur and get ice cream at Butter and Cream and check out Home Grown for local goods. We’d hop over to Kudzu for some antique shopping. And we would go to the International Farmers Market because pastries. I mean also other things but pastries. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have to thank my parents for being supportive Jaclyn Hofmann for her undying support Julia Flood for her kindness no matter the miles Karen Bain who saw something in me when I did not see it in myself.