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December 16, 2013

At Random: Deborah Morgan

VALDOSTA — The thing about retirement, says Deborah Morgan, is the sheer amount of time.

After more than 20 years in Valdosta State University's Theatre department, Morgan retired at the end of the Spring 2012 semester.

“The first month is heaven,” said Morgan. “No one telling you to do anything, no reports due, nobody's on you for anything. And then, after about a month you notice there are 24 hours in the day, every day. You have to reinvent yourself, if you're going to enjoy it. The world is still going on and you want to be a part of it.”

As part of her dramaturgy work at VSU, Morgan made lobby displays for plays, filling the audience in on the background of the world they were about to visit. That led her to learn Photoshop, which she started digging into more and more in retirement.

“It's just a different way to create. You find out you can do a lot of stuff.”

She ended up drawing her dog, Parish, on top of the Valdosta Water Tower. From there, Parish went on to have more animated adventures, parachuting in to an 8 a.m. class at VSU and flying with the Thunderbirds over Moody Air Force Base.

“I thought it would be fun for Parish to go to places in Valdosta that are immediately recognizable."

Parish gets into her own real-life adventures, jumping out of car windows and tearing through grocery stores.

She found her way into Morgan's life through friend Anita Rhemes, who suggested Morgan take Parish into her home after she lost her dog, Ripley.

“(Parish) was about the size of a pickle.”

Morgan's love of dogs and art goes back to when she was 7, at Pontchartrain Beach in New Orleans.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Audrey, a fundraiser was being hosted. As part of it, two puppies were being raffled off and the 7-year-old Morgan won. She fought her way through the crowd of waists and legs and met Sniffy.

She also got into art as a youth.

“It started out with paint by number,” chuckled Morgan. “Then I started drawing and painting. I didn't really pick it up again until I started working at the university. It was a way for me to relax.”

Morgan would sketch out theatre department faculty in faculty meetings. For her, it was a way to focus and to de-stress.

“What Duke (Guthrie, VSU theatre professor) noticed was the more stressful things become, the more I'd draw.”

Now she's combined the two as she sends Parish off on adventure after adventure.

She's created five so far, with more planned: Parish doing her best Mary Poppins downtown, posing as Queen Elizabeth. Eventually, Parish might leave Valdosta, heading out over neighboring cities or perhaps towards the coast and the sea.

It's up in the air, much like Parish herself, but that's fine with Morgan. She has time to figure it out.

If you want to pick up prints or cards of Parish's adventures, look for them at Classic Art and Frame, Mockingbird and Chez What.

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