Garland Thompson Jr. is a Poet, an Actor, Playwright and Producer whose career spans the left and right coasts, and the last 20 plus years. As an actor he was most recently seen playing four roles (2 of which were British) in the Magic Circle Center's production of "Accomplice" by Rupert Holmes. He played alongside actor Jack Stauffer, known the world over as "Bojay" on the sci-fi television series "Battlestar Galactica", and as one of the original cast members of "All My Children" on ABC TV. Garland was heard as the voice of "The Interviewer" in the Magic Circle Center's production of "The Shadowbox". He was also seen playing the role of Mr. Willis in "The Good Times Are Killing Me" by Lynda Barry at the Western Stage Theatre Company (www.westernstage.org). In the year 2000 he performed in the Western Stage's annual Festival of One Acts in two plays. As Lawrence in "Home Free" and "The Virtuous Burglar" in Dario Fo's play of the same name. Monterey Bay theatergoers may also recognize Garland from his work at the Unicorn Theatre as Mack the Knife in "Threepenny Opera", Count Orsino in "Twelfth Night" and Steve the wise bartender in "Guy Things". The list of his most recent theatrical work also includes the world premiere stage version of John Steinbeck's "Viva Zapata" at the Western Stage, and "The Odd Couple" at the Magic Circle Center in Carmel Valley, California.
As a Poet and Spoken Word Artist Garland has been blessed to tour the U.S and Europe. Beginning in 1990 at Highland Grounds Coffeehouse Garland quickly became a highly active participant in the Los Angeles Spoken Word scene. At first a regular member of the weekly open reading at Highland Grounds he became a sought after feature in the LA scene. He also began to produce poetry readings. He co-hosted a regular series called "Mr. Mojo's Neighborhood" with fellow Poet, and performance partner, Mauro Monteiro. Garland also brought poetry, in the form of a weekly open reading known as "Poetry at The Improv" which he hosted and produced, to the stage of the World Famous Improv Comedy Club in 1991. First at the Hollywood club, and then in Santa Monica. Leaving L.A. for Austin, Texas in 1992 Garland continued his Spoken Word career. He produced many readings, and continued to do features throughout Texas where he was a special guest at the Austin International Poetry Festival 2 years in a row.
In 1993 Garland published his chapbook, "Hey Garland, I Dig Your Tweed Suit!" to favorable reviews. He also produced and hosted "Shootout at The Planet: Garland's Poetry Slam and Rent Party", a catered event which ran monthly for 2 years at The Planet Theatre in Austin, Texas, and was voted "The Most Friendly Poetry Slam in Austin" in 1995. It was a unique event in that it combined a Poetry Slam with the idea of the old Harlem rent parties. In the 1920's, and as late as the fifties, Black Americans in poor urban areas would throw Saturday night "rent parties" where they would charge neighbors and anyone else who showed up a dollar or two cover charge. There would be food, drink, and many musicians, poets and artists would often be in attendance. It was a regular occurrence during the Jazz Age for musicians to finish their club gigs downtown, and then head "uptown" to really swing at the rent parties. Many communities got to know each other, and keep in touch in this way. Thus "Shootout at the Planet" was a monthly poetry slam and community building event. Also in Austin Garland was the Poetry Director for the 1995 Clarkesville Jazz Festival, where he coordinated the appearance of nearly a hundred poets from in and around Central Texas.
Since moving back to California in 1995 Garland has performed at First Night Monterey (www.firstnightmonterey.org), and the Carmel Performing Arts Festival (www.carmelfest.org) the last four years in a row producing Spoken Word shows, hosting poetry slams, and performing/producing his one man show "Swingin' From the Vine: Tales of the Jazzbo Blue". In 1997 he went on the road performing a one man show called "The Right To Dream", the story of a young black man coming of age at the height of the Civil Rights era. It was a captivating mixture of a live actor performing in sync with video images, and sounds that were often quite graphic in their truthfulness. He performed it in middle and high schools, colleges and churches from Ohio to Virginia, where he would talk frankly with students, teachers, parents, and others about the Civil rights struggle, and racism in America, past, present and future.
He's gone out on tour nationally 3 times with Dallas Poet Clebo Rainey, and in 1998 he was asked to join "The Latino Poets Tour" by Miguel Algarin, founder of the Nuyorican Poets Café. The tour performed in England and Scotland with the U.K. band Sidestepper. He has featured at, hosted and produced Poetry readings and Slams across the nation, and locally is known as the creator and producer of the "West Coast Championship Poetry Slam", an annual event that has been happening in Big Sur, CA at the Henry Miller Memorial Library since 1998. Last year's 2-day event hosted 11 teams of Poets from Vancouver, BC to San Diego, including the Slam America Tour, and gave away $2000 in cash prizes to the delight of capacity crowds. This year was equally exciting.
Winter 2000 found Garland working with the residents of Genesis House, a local drug and alcohol recovery program in Seaside, California to create an original piece of work that was performed at First Night Monterey 2001. "The Genesis People" made it¹s debut at the Bruce Ariss Memorial Wharf Theatre on Fisherman's Wharf December 31, 2000.
Garland has just returned from the 2001 National Black Theatre Festival in North Carolina where he was the co-coordinator for the festival's Readers' Theatre Series. Along with his father, Garland Lee Thompson Sr., he coordinated this play reading series that read 37 plays in 5 days. The readings were made up by a combination of professional actors, directors, and celebrities including Charles Dutton and Paul Winfield. While there he also won the first NBTF Poetry Slam, put on by Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam, performing for a celebrity panel of judges that included actress Vanessa Bell Calloway (BET), stars of stage and screen Starletta Dupois and Jeffrey Anderson-Gunter, Chester Gregory III, star of the Chicago Black Ensemble Theatre's hit production of The Jackie Wilson Story (My heart is crying), and Tony Award nominee Andre DeShields, who is currently on Broadway in The Full Monty.