The Food of Love


Still buzzing from my musical experiences this weekend past. I listen to music so much, I take it for granted. Silence becomes deafening, like a presence rather than an absence. Yet listening to my iPod any time I'm in travel, or alone . . . or breathing . . . has rather blunted my musical appreciation. Seeing live shows this weekend reawoke that sensibility in me a good bit. Obviously music is more emotionally affective when it's performed live (assuming it's performed competently [remind me to tell you about my one and only experience seeing Smashing Pumpkins perform]) but somehow I lose more and more sight of that connection the longer I spend not attending a live show. Which is ridiculous, because the exact same thing occurs in the theatre, so you'd think little ol' me could keep the notion in his little ol' brain long enough to remember to get out and see more live music. {I and Me are going to have to have a talk to figure out exactly what My glitch is.} It's cheaper than a movie, and there's all that wonderful subculture begging to be coolly appreciated.

Back when I was still in school, at Virginia Commonwealth University (V.C.U. ... unt V. haf vays of meking U. tok!), I realized one day that I hadn't thought very hard about why I was doing what I was doing with my life. Which was funny, because I'm generally a pretty thoughtful kind of guy, and moreso back when I didn't have a head crammed with bills, taxes, health issues and pressing social concerns. Specifically, I recognized that a lot of what I was getting out of my practice of acting was therapeutic satisfaction and, while that's all fine and good and all, I didn't judge that to be a very good basis for a (potentially) life-long pursuit. So I thought about it a bit, which led me to question what good theatre itself specifically accomplished. I mean, what is its particular value? I thought that if I could figure that out to my satisfaction, I could judge if it was worth doing. Because I didn't want to be doing something for my whole life that was only for me. If all I was accomplishing was a little much-needed venting and personal exploration, I may as well have hung up my aspirations and become an accountant who occasionally performs in community theatre productions. {A noble occupation, of course. Dad. If you're reading this.}

So I thought about it, backstage, in my dorm, in English classes, etc. And what I came up with has carried me through a lot of questioning times in my career. And I was reminded of it last night, when I was out way too late for a school night, listening to friends play music in a downtown basement.

My perspective of contemporary, western society is that we are all becoming dehumanized by little bits. Pixels. Zeroes and ones. Tiny squares. Great, big flat squares. All of them windows, all look, no touch. I don't hold myself above this, nor do I rail against the mediums. (I mean, I'm writing you from a weblog here, and it's not like I'm turning down Spielberg when he calls. Yes: When.) Rather, I see my stage work as restoring some of that sense of humanity, of actual connection. If you get coaxed to see a play, regardless of its artistic merit or content you are connecting in actual space with that pair of round windows most of us have attached to the fronts of our faces. And it matters. Moreover, theatre allows us the experience of being lifted into this experience rather than forcing it upon us. You go to be entertained, to ostensibly receive similar entertainment to movies and television, in that a fictional performance with some emphasis on verisimilitude is going to occur. A story will be told. In this way, we relax into a familiar arrangement. But theatre, and only theatre, takes this journey through its window. Anything can happen, in real time with real people, and if it succeeds a play leaves us feeling more human, more connected. Awakened instead of subdued.

I have a lot of short-term gigs coming up (including one in film), so it was good to be reminded of the personal value of this work from an unexpected source. Go out and support the lively arts, folks. I acknowledge that it can be expensive and risky. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Play on.
 
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