Garrett Davis

Dawn Cauthen-Thornton | November 16th, 2017
Garrett Davis (Photos by Shaw Photography Group)

Garrett Davis (Photos by Shaw Photography Group)

Imagine going to college, selecting your major, mapping out your life plan after you graduate, then being pulled in a different direction.

As a young student at Fayetteville State University, Garrett Davis had it all figured out. He was a Radio/Television Broadcasting major and was the youngest program director in the nation, of a 100,000 watt NPR affiliate radio station. His goal was to one day own his own station. In addition to his major, he decided to minor in speech and theater so he could take a few acting classes. Just to scratch an itch he’d had, he became involved in a play, attended the NADSA (National Association of Dramatic and Speech Arts) conference (acting in the same play) and came home with an award for Best Supporting Actor. His theater teacher hounded him to pursue acting, but his heart was set on radio.

By chance, shortly after, he attended a professional play, for the first time, and was absolutely in awe. He immediately went home and penned his first script for “Lord, Why Me? Another itch was scratched and he tossed the pages in the closet without a second thought. A few years later, he had the opportunity to become the General Manager at a radio station in Raeford, NC. “Not only was I the GM, but I was the morning man, the sales guy, the janitor, you name it. I was everything.”

Apparently, the station didn’t have much money to spend on extra employees, so Garrett stepped in to help them out, in many ways. As a fundraising effort for the struggling station, Garrett had the bright idea to produce the play that he had written years prior. Surprisingly, the show ran for three days and sold out each day. He moved on to Fayetteville, NC and the show sold out there as well. Then, he made a deal with himself; “If the play sells out in the next city, I’m going to quit my job and pursue this full time.” You guessed it…the show sold out!

Garrett ended his stint in radio and started touring the country with the play he’d originally closed the door on. “In those days, it was just me, a caravan of cars (the cast), and a pick-up truck with furniture on the back. We didn’t even have a real set.”

The play would travel from city to city several times a year until others took notice and started writing and producing plays of their own, providing a bit of competition for Garrett. Also on the scene was a little-known guy, at the time, named Tyler Perry. He changed the game when he presented his signature character Madea and created elaborate sets to go along with his celebrity cast members. To just keep up and continue to perform, Garrett decided he needed to step up his game. “It forced me to write more plays so I could visit the same city with something different each time.”

Garrett put pen to paper and cranked out several more scripts which allowed him to continue touring. Life was great, he was gaining a following, and more opportunity presented itself. He was even contacted by Tyler Perry’s personal promotor who wanted to utilize his play, but unfortunately after a few months, the deal fell through and Garrett’s entire team was out of jobs.

By that time, the ambitious playwright needed a break from the industry. He was disappointed, he was tired and vowed to never do another play again. That feeling didn’t last long and he found himself creating more scripts. One “Forgot Me Not”, is about the relationship between him and his late grandmother who suffered and ultimately succumbed to Alzheimer’s.

“I felt guilty because I wasn’t there for her while she was dying. She would often ask my sister and mother about me but I always seemed to be busy. So I wrote the play as therapy to help get over that.”

Because “Forgot Me Not” focused on Alzheimer’s, many people resonated with it. It was originally supposed to run for three days, but that turned into 30 consecutive days at a playhouse in Winston Salem. Knowing that a good friend’s mother was also battling the same heartbreaking illness, he called her to see if she would be interested in partnering to bring it to other venues. That friend was Bern Nadette Stanis, better known as ‘Thelma Evans’ on the former hit show “Good Times”. They decided that it was imperative to use this production as a teaching tool to bring awareness to the disease that affects African Americans at twice the rate of any other race.

With the success of this play, Garrett realized he was on to something. He became passionate about the health of his community and brainstormed ways to he could continue to educate. “I became heavily involved with the Alzheimer’s Association. And I became the first African American to receive the Advocate of the Year award for my work with the play.”

Not stopping there, Garrett decided to focus on other areas of health that plagued blacks the most. He partnered with AARP who sponsored his play “Mama’s Girls”, about sisters caring for their aging mother. It ran for almost 5 years, traveling across the country. That partnership truly launched Garrett’s career and helped solidify his place not only in the theater world, but also in his own community where he saw the greatest need. “It put me on a national spotlight to raise the awareness of caregiving.” It also afforded him the opportunity to connect with others just as passionate as he was about health. And because “Mama’s Girls” was such a hit, people began asking more about his previous play that focused on Alzheimer’s. He soon became one of the founding members of the African American Network against Alzheimer’s alongside Honorary Co-Chairs Al Sharpton and former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher.

To date Garrett has written, directed, and toured over 25 productions, five of which are a part of award winning projects. His current project “Daddy’s Boys” will be touring nationally beginning in January 2018. He’s also setting his sights on film and television and currently developing “Taking Care of June”, a series about the patriarch of the family being diagnosed with dementia.

Garrett confesses that in his younger years he had planned to be the next big name. He wanted everyone to know who he was and to be famous like most entertainers. But his destiny was much bigger. God had a different plan. With the support of his 23-member staff and his family, his name still sits atop marquee’s and on billboards, but now his purpose has shifted. Instead of just merely entertaining and getting a laugh, he prompts conversations within households. He forces his audience to consider their own well-being and that of their families.

“I was initially writing plays on love and relationships but that’s not what God wanted me to write about. I’m not Steve Harvey or Tom Joyner or Madea. I have to be the first Garrett Davis. Trying to be someone else forces you to get their leftovers. I want what’s mine not what somebody else had.”
It’s so easy to see someone else’s success and desire to have their ideas, their lifestyle, their fame. But it’s evident that what God has for you is for you. And Garrett Davis is a testament to that belief.

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