A Year Without Brad

One year ago today, we learned of the untimely death of Brad Graham. Brad was a dear friend, but in this post  I want to recall how affected me in my work at MOCRA.

Brad Graham (1968-2010)
Brad Graham (1968-2010)

In the time I knew him, Brad was the publicist for the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, a role he fulfilled with bottomless commitment and boundless flair. It was a job “that encompasses media relations, a variety of writing assignments, website management, social media marketing and much more,” as the Rep’s online tribute to Brad states. What is left unsaid is how much of that broad compass was a result of Brad’s restless creativity and curiosity. He was a pioneer in the realm of social media (he started his Bradlands blog in 1998, before the term “blog” had even been invented; and, for better or worse, he is credited with coining the term “blogosphere”). He was also a beloved regular at the SXSW Interactive Festival.

Brad’s fearlessness in exploring new forms of communications helped spur me to begin expanding (albeit comparatively modestly) MOCRA’s online presence. He was always generous with advice and feedback, and encouraged me to jump in and get my feet wet with new technology.

But his training and grounding in “old media” ensured that Brad’s contributions to the many new media outlets were never vacuous. He had a knack for storytelling, which I’m sure fueled his passion for journalism and made him such a consummate publicist. Wit, wordplay, and keen observation are hallmarks of his work. Following Brad’s example, I aim to favor quality over quantity in what MOCRA puts online, to always look for a good narrative, and to leaven even the deepest, weightiest topics we explore with a dose of humanity and humor.

Brad also knew that the new media options in all their glittering array, ultimately only have lasting value if the communication they promote springs from, and nourishes, genuine interaction between people. He never let the technology get in the way of a good face-to-face conversation, nor did he let gadgetry fun distract him from his role as a publicist: to establish relationships with the Rep’s patrons and invite them to experience the power of live theater. This sense of focus went beyond professionalism or commitment to his employers; Brad deeply loved and believed in the transformative power of theater and the other arts.

Brad’s love of people expressed itself in many ways. For instance, he delighted in establishing connections among colleagues, and instinctively took “newbies” under his wing. Early on in our friendship, he took care to invite me to various gatherings of arts professionals and marketing professionals, introducing me to people he thought I would benefit from knowing, and giving me tips on how to apply my new connections to my work at MOCRA. (His running commentary on personalities and outfits guaranteed that even the dreariest networking session would have its entertaining moments.) I take great pleasure in those opportunities I now have to do the same sort of mentoring and relationship building.

So, I take a moment today to remember you, Brad, and to thank you for your professional example, your infectious joy for art and life, and for your friendship. Your own words are an apt motto for a life in the arts: “I’m in. So many stories yet to tell.”

— David Brinker, Assistant Director