In the course of his bright, young career as a playwright and television writer, Franky Gonzalez, 29, has steadily put together a standout resume that brims with bulleted accomplishments.
The guest speaker in the College of Arts and Letters’ “Tell Me Your Story: Liberal Arts Careers” series, scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 2, in a free event via Zoom, Gonzalez has worked with The Lark, the Sundance Institute, the Ojai Playwrights Conference, Goodman Theatre, The New Harmony Project, LAByrinth Theater Company and many others.
He is the recipient of noteworthy awards including the 2020 Crossroads Project: Diverse Voices Playwriting Initiative Award and was co-recipient for the 2018 MetLife Nuestras Voces Latino Playwriting Award.
And he recently served as a staff writer on the final season of the popular Netflix drama “13 Reasons Why.”
And from that success, he said, one can draw a connecting line to the liberal arts degree he received from the University of North Texas.
“There is something unique about pursuing a liberal arts degree that is not apparent to people at first glance,” Gonzalez said. “My liberal arts degree (specifically in Theatre Arts) brought to me the fundamental building blocks toward success in my career field. I learned to collaborate in large groups in my theatrical classes. I learned how to polish my writing and better articulate my points through philosophy and literature courses. A liberal arts degree helped me think critically and creatively when presented with problems or obstacles.”
Beyond enhancing his creative acumen, Gonzalez said his liberal arts degree fostered a wellspring in personal growth and understanding.
“What a liberal arts degree brought me — that I don’t feel any other degree could — was empathy,” he said. “I learned to take in other perspectives and be challenged in my beliefs. I learned to listen and learned to compromise. I learned conflict resolution and simple appeasement are not the same.
“In learning the lesson of empathy, I learned to write characters who held views outside of my own. It made my scripts all the better and my career all the richer.”
His advice to UToledo students who aspire to an arts-related career: “Kindness is our currency; ego is our ruin.”
“Careers are built on the kindness you show others,” he said. “Kindness is volunteering your time, offering help, giving praise (when warranted) and being available to assist in places that inspire you.
“There certainly is the conventional path of going to one of the big cities on the coasts to make a career, but I’d argue that you can actually do very well while still maintaining a comfortable standard of living by staying local and pursuing the arts.”
He also encourages students to get involved in their local arts community.
“It builds your resume and you’d be surprised at what it could do for your career,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez said that college is the time for students to experiment and try something new. Now is the time to make your mistakes.
“Your education and your learning also is not limited to the classroom or studio. It’s in your free time that you should be honing your craft or learning something new,” Gonzalez said. “Certainly, professors and classes can be a catalyst for inspiration, but the success and improvement of your career rest on your investment in yourself. The resources that are available on campuses are generally unlike any you’ll get anywhere else. Take advantage of them as best as possible.”
Gonzalez will discuss his career and biography and more in his free “Tell Me Your Story: Liberal Arts Careers” virtual event on Tuesday, March 2. Visit the Webinar page to register.