What exactly is art; who defines it; who makes it, and where in Atlanta do poets, thespians, and artists congregate and create? We’ll use this space to catch up with a few for a few…some you may know; others we hope you’ll be pleased to meet their acquaintance.
Lisa Nanette Allender is a poet, writer, and actor who works in film and theatre. At a very young age, she learned the significance of surrendering herself to a role. Her ability to give herself over to her characters boosted her emergence as a creative individual and artist. She’s lived in Atlanta since the early 80s. Her favorite hangout spots, ITP and OTP, are Manuel’s Tavern, Ponce City Market, Valor Coffee, The Big Creek Greenway, and Tuscany Café.
What does being an artist mean to you, and how would you describe the world you create?
I find it challenging, at times, to refer to myself as an artist; I believe that’s for others to determine. We can practice art, such as acting or writing, but how do we know we are doing justice to the work we are drawn to? But I would describe the world I create as being one of hope. Without that, what do we have?
When did you fall in love with acting/writing, and why…meaning how did you first know this was what you were meant to do?
I was in sixth grade when I first fell in love with acting. It was on a field trip to Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, Florida, to see Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie.” I felt immediately drawn to Laura because she felt none understood her. Growing up on a family farm in central Florida and attending parochial school in Ybor City, I felt more connected to that world onstage I’d just discovered. As a child, I didn’t consciously understand how alienated I was then; I felt like an “outsider” early on, always wanting to belong. These themes endure, often driving my creativity. After the play, I told my mom I wanted to be an actress when I grew up. Her response was, “Oh, Lisa, really? You’re so shy…do you really think you could get up in front of all those people and do that?” I assured her I’d be okay because I’d get to be somebody else on stage. At that time, I didn’t fully understand I’d really need to find myself in every role, not lose myself in one. This was the same for writing; the discovery process keeps me going in both.
If you had to select one piece of your artwork that best describes you, what would it be? Why that choice?
I love this question. Poetry is often inherently intimate, and mine can reflect well who I am. In particular, I wrote a poem, “Grief,” ostensibly about a dog losing her puppies, though, at its turn, the reader learns it’s about me considering the loss of my mom. Here’s the twist, I’m pretty obsessive about placing a date and time on my work, and I wrote this poem on May 7, 2003; my mom was healthy and well then. Exactly ten years later, on May 7, 2013, my mom, who never smoked, called me to share her diagnosis of Stage 4 NSCLC (non-small cell lung cancer). I rediscovered the poem a few days after her phone call.
How has Atlanta inspired your work?
From the historic gay bar, Weekends, where I once danced alongside RuPaul, to the edgy productions at Actor’s Express to writing workshops taught by poets like Theresa Davis and Cecilia Woloch, Atlanta is endlessly inspirational. And often a character in my poetry and plays.
What question haven’t I asked that you’d like to answer?
How can we help artists excel, be seen, and be heard? To this end, I have created a quarterly event called Meet An Artist. I showcase an artist’s work—by invitation only—in their home to expose more potential patrons to artists with whom they are not yet familiar. I feature women artists over 45, primarily women of color. For 2022-2023, I’ve worked with visual artists; in 2023-2024, writers; and in 2024-2025, actors and performers.