Friday, September 26, 2008

David Hare on John Osborne

"It is, if you like, the final irony that John's governing love was for a country which is, to say the least, distrustful of those who seem to be both clever and passionate. There is in English public life an implicit assumption that the head and the heart are in some sort of opposition. If someone is clever, they get labelled cold. If they are emotional, they get labelled stupid. Nothing bewilders the English more than someone who exhibits great feeling and great intelligence. When, as in John's case, a person is abundant in both, the English response is to take in the washing and bolt the back door."

Have we come to the same place in America? Have we become so mired in irony that passion and intelligence is no longer an ideal?

To me, these questions are best answered on a generational basis. When I look at my students, the answer would be no, we have not come to such a place yet. While they sometimes adopt a certain ironic detachment as a comic pose, they have a strong commitment to passion and intelligence and when given the chance to express it (i.e., when given a chance to talk about things they care about rather than things teachers tell them they should care about), they sing their hope and compassions with a full voice.  However, earlier generations, who are currently in charge of most things, do seem to have been dipped in the acid of irony, and it shows up in our mass media, our news media, and many of our stories. It isn't downright cynicism, which at least would have the power of honesty, but is reflected more in the art of the scare quotes and the eye roll.

In class today, we talked about hope. Despite all evidence to the contrary in our current social landscape, most of my students have a great deal of hope -- both individual and collective. In fact, some of the hope is tied to the negative parts of the outlook: a belief that an economic and environmental collapse might lead us to a simpler, more humane lifestyle. There is a sense of wanting somehow to be allowed to care for each other, to live a life that is more than non-stop work, but that is based in a stronger humanism. I came away from the class feeling more buoyed and upbeat.

We also discussed this story from the book Creative Brooding, which might propose an image of the role of the arts in our contemporary environment:

One day Lauren Isley leaned against a stump at the edge of a glade and fell asleep. When I awoke, dimly aware of some commotion and outcry in the clearing, the light was slanting down through the pines in such a way that the glad was lit like some vast cathedral.  I could see the dust motes of wood pollen in the long shaft of light.  And there on the extended branch sat and enormous raven with a red and squirming nestling in his beak.  The sounds that awoke me was the outraged cries of the nestlings parents, who flew helplessly in circles about the clearing.  The sleek black monster was indifferent to them.  He gulped, whetted his beak on the dead branch a moment and sat still.  Up to that point, the little tragedy had dollowed the usual pattern.  But suddenly, out of all that area of woodland, a soft sound of complaint began to rise.  Into the glade fluttered small birds of half a dozen varieties, drawn by the anguished outcries of the tiny parents.  No one dared to attack the raven. But the cried there in some instinctive, common misery.  The bereaved and the unbereaved.  The glade filled with their soft rustling, and their cries.  They fluttered as though to point their wings at the murderer.  There was a dim, intangible ethic he had violated, that they knew.  He was a bird of death, and he, the murderer, the black bird at the heart of life, sat on there, glistening in the common light, formidable, unmoving, unperturbed, untouchable.  The sighing died.  It was then I saw the judgment.  It was the judgment of life against death.  I will never see it again so forcefully presented.  I will never hear it again in notes so tragically prolonged.  For in the midst of protest, they forgot the violence.  There, in that clearing, thew crystal note of a song sparrow lifted hesitantly in the hush, and finally, after painful fluttering, another took the song and then another.  The song passing from one bird to another, doubtfully at first, as though some evil thing were being slowly forgotten.  Till suddenly they took heart and sang from many throats joyously together as birds are known to sing.  They sang because life is sweet and sunlight beautiful.  They sang under the brooding shadow of the raven.  In simple truth, they had forgotten the raven.  For they were the singers of life, and not of death.”

I am reminded of the opening paragraph of Jill Dolan's Utopia in Performance, in which she discusses "the potential of different kinds of performance to inspire moments in which audiences feel themselves allied with each other, and with a broader, more capacious sense of a public, in which social discourse articulates the possible rather than the insurmountable obstacles to human potential.”

Transcendence. The transformation of life's pain into beauty. The attempt to make the ordinary extraordinary. National geographic photographer Dewitt Jones, in his inspiring DVD Extraordinary Vision, talks about realizing that his pragmatic orientation "I'll believe it when I see it" needed to be reversed: "I'll see it when I believe it."  Perhaps the arts, through the act of imagination, can help people believe it so that they can see it. Might inspire people with what is possible.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Re-Runs: On Possibility

As I prepared for class today, I stumbled upon a post I wrote back in mid-July that I would like to re-post because...well, it just seems like a good time for it, and because it connects to what I have been exploring in Life Is a Verb. The link to the original is here.

On Possibility

"America is coming of age. Note the many changing aspects of America.

A maturing America means a nation conscious of its arts among all its people. Communities east, west, north, and south are searching for ways to make community life
more attractive.

The arts are at the very center of community development in this time of change...change for the better.

The frontier and all that it once meant in economic development and in the sheer necessity of building a nation is being replaced by the frontier of the arts. In no other way can
Americans so well express the core and blood of their democracy; for in the communities lies the final test of the acceptance of the arts as a necessity of everyday life.

In terms of American democracy, the arts are for everyone.They are not reserved for the wealthy, or for the well-endowed museum, the gallery, or the ever-subsidized regional professional
theatre. As America emerges into a different understanding of her strength, it becomes clear that her strength is in the people and in the places where the people live.

The people, if shown the way, can create art in and of themselves.

The springs of the American spirit are at the grass roots. Opportunities must exist in places where they never have existed before. A consciousness of the people, a knowledge of their
power to generate and nourish art, and a provision of ways in which they may do so are essential for our time.

If we are seeking in America, let it be a seeking for the reality of democracy in art. Let art begin at home, and let it spread through the children and their parents, and through the
schools, the institutions, and through government.

And let us start by acceptance, not negation--acceptance that the arts are important everywhere, and that they can exist and flourish in small places as well as in large; with money, or
without, according to the will of the people. Let us put firmly and permanently aside as a cliché of an expired moment in time that art is a frill. Let us accept the goodness of art
where we are now, and expand its worth in the places where people live."

Robert Gard, Arts in the Small Community (1969)

When I read this ringing endorsement of the power of the arts in the lives of ordinary people, and the power of ordinary people in the arts, and then I think of so many of the conversations we have here in the theatrosphere and face-to-face, I am reminded of the minister's funeral oration over the body of Alex, a young man who has committed suicide, in the movie The Big Chill. The minister looks out into the assembled mourners, mostly baby boomers who have lost their idealism, and he asks, "Where did Alex's hope go?" When each morning I catch up on the thoughts of so many theatre bloggers, I ask the same thing: Where did theatre artists' hope go? When did we become so convinced that what we do is so little desired, so little respected? When did we lose sight of our importance to a community's understanding of who it is and what it believes?

But those are the wrong questions. Those are questions based in blame and retribution, questions that points us to the past: how did we get here? It is what Carolynn Myss calls "woundology," a focusing on one's injuries and wrongs, a dwelling in the past instead of the future. How we got here is unimportant; where we are going is crucial. As artists, we need to commit to a conversation about possibility.

Peter Block, in his excellent book Community: The Structure of Belonging, describes what such a conversation is like:

The possibility conversation frees us to be pulled by a new future. The distinction is between possibility, which lives into the future, and problem solving, which makes improvements on the past. This distinction takes its value from an understanding that living systems are propelled by the force of the future, and possibility as we use it here...is one way of speaking of the future.

Possibility occurs as a declaration, and declaring a possibility wholeheartedly can, in fact, be the transformation. The leadership task is to postpone problem solving and stay focused on possibility until it is spoken with resonance and passion. The good news is that once we have fully declared a possibility, it works on us -- we do not have to work on it.

The challenge with possibility is it gets confused with goals, predictions, and optimism. Possibility is not about what we plan to happen, or what we think will happen, or whether things will get better. Goals, prediction, and optimism don't create anything; they just might make things a little better and cheer us up in the process. Nor is possibility simply a dream. Dreaming leaves us bystanders or observers of our lives. Possibility creates something new. It is a declaration of a future that has thye quality of being and aliveness that we choose to live into. It is framed as a declaration of the world that I want to inhabit. It is a statement of who I am that transcends our history, our story, our usual demographics. The power is in the act of declaring...The future is created through a declaration of what is the possibility we stand for.

What possibility do you stand for? Block asks, "What is the crossroads where you find yourself at this stage of your life or in the project around which we are assembled?" Or more directly, and to my mind even more powerfully: "What declaration of possibility can you make that has the power to transform the community and inspire you?" And the two "overarching questions" that point to the future: "What do we want to create together that would make the difference?" And "What can we create together than we cannot create alone?"

For me, I find myself at a crossroads in this project of expanding the reach of theatre throughout America where the artist and the community meets; where virtuosity and specialization meets human creativity and common wisdom; where fear meets trust.

I recently read a powerful book by Patrick Overton called Rebuilding the Front Porch of America: Essays on the Art of Community Making. In a chapter near the end of the book entitled "The Deep Voice: The Relationship Between Art, Spirituality, and Healing," Overton, who testified in front of Congress during the hearings about the NEA's support of controversial art in 1990, makes a declaration of possibility:

The arts aren't the cause of the crisis facing our culture, they are a cure. The arts aren't the source of the hurting in our society, they are a way of healing the pain. The arts are not in and of themselves, evil; they are an authentic expression of self that manifest in an individual's courage to face life as it really is. Art that is not an authentic expression of self is not art -- it is propaganda, or a product -- but it is not art. Art is the voice of the soul struggling to express what it means to be human.

He discusses participating in a think tank meeting for the Theatre Program of the NEA where there were two members who had a history together, and what seemed opposite visions of the arts.

One, from a very prestigious private foundation, kept talking about the beauty and magnificence of art because it lifted her spirit. To her, art makes meaning and beauty and this is the kind of art her foundation was interested in funding, This is art that inspires transcendence. The other person was from a theatre cpmpany from the south and he talked about art as that which must challenge the status quo. To him, art is not something created to be beautiful, or to make people pleasant or happy or comfortable. Art is something that confronts what is wrong and unjust in our society and is designed to make people feel uncomfortable. To him art reveals what is wrong with out world and, in so doing. demands something be done to change it. This is art that inspires transformation.

As I listened to them, it seemed to me they weren't really disagreeing. In essence, they were both saying the same thing, but in a different weay. To understand the nature of art, we have to understand it in both its "ascendant" and "descendant" purpose. Art can, through ascendance, through the elevation of the human spirit, help us transcend what we know, what we see, what we understand. When art does this it is "awful" (that is, full of awe). This is when art lifts the spirit. It is the exhale -- art that empties us and sucks the air out of our lungs because of its power and the truth of the simple/complexity it protrays in such a profound way. This is when art reveals mystery and truth and grasps us with such intensity that it transcends the human condition, and leaves us changed, forever. Art is one of the few things left in our world that can create this much-needed sense of "awe-fullness" in us.

But there is another function in art, art as descendence. Art can be an invitation (sometimes compelling) to descend from the surface of our lives -- beyond the facade and the masks, to the depths of our existence -- the deep place where truth exists. When art does this, it is the inhale -- driving us into ourselves, forcing us to gasp for air, taking in the force and intensity of the experience inside of us because of the power and the truth of the simple/compelcity it portrays in such a powerful way.

The one, the descendent function, reveals what is and shouldn't be. The other, the ascendent function, reveals what isn't but could be. Art can be beautiful and lift our spirits -- but art can also force us to face the truth -- to descend to the deep place and see the world as it is and shouldn't be. They both do the same thing -- they are a way we can transcend the condition of our lives -- a way we are transformed. These two functions cannot be separated -- they are converse images of the same creative force -- the same truth.

He then, in one of the most powerful descriptions of what art can do to heal, describes when he was invited to speak at the dedication of the Huntsville Vietnam Memorial in 1994. A Vietnam veteran himself, Overton had not spoken about his experience in Vietnam since his return to the US in 1968. Reluctantly, he agreed. He stood up in front of a crowd of older and younger people, mostly veterans of various wars, and he talked about his experiences on a flagship in the Gulf of Tonkin, and later in a naval hospital in Japan. He closed his speech by reading a poem that he wrote specifically for the dedication ceremony about his experiences with the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC. The poem, entitled The Healing Wall, is stunning and deeply felt, and while I would like to share it with you, it is much too long for this already-long post. But in it, he describes his unwillingness to experience the wall, and then his eventual visit in which he looked for a name that he did not find -- his own, and he felt the pain of having survived. He ended the poem with this line: "No more walls, please, no more walls."

He writes:

I will never forget that afternoon in Huntsville. It was an emotional experience for all of us. Following my speech, people were very quiet, still. It reminded me of my visit to the Wall in DC. Slowly, people began to move, looking through the crowd for someone to hold, to hug. There was a need to touch. There was not a lot of talking. I saw men of my father's generation with tears running down their faces, something that is all too rare for them. I saw sons and fathers embrace -- with a kind of knowing and understanding that may not have existed before. That afternoon in May invited a small community, deeply wounded by the war, to heal. My speech and poetry did not do the healing. The people did. What I did was extend the invitation. What writing the poem did was invite me to name my own healing and celebrate it. And, by sharing the poem with that community, I invited others to name their own healing and celebrate it with each other as well.

After I read his poem, and imagined his reading of it, and after I finished the essay, I wondered whether it was ascendant or descendent art, and the more I thought about it, the more I felt that it was both, like a descent into hell and a resurrection. In Ireland, Frank Delaney tells a story of an Ulster king who always had his cart pulled by two horses, a black horse and a white horse, because they represented both sides of himself that he must always ride yoked together. Perhaps that is when art is truly transcendent and inspired.

Overton describes a possibility for theatre and for the arts -- a possibility of healing. Sometimes healing requires surgery -- the cutting of flesh and the inflicting of pain in order to remove that which is diseased. Other times, what is required is nursing, care-full tending and attention. But the motivation is the same: to heal. That is an attitude of goodwill, of caring.

And so I declare here the possibility of caring as a relationship between artist and community, a mutual healing to be shared through descendence and ascendance, inhaling and exhaling, together. I declare the possibility that our fellow citizens hunger for what we can create together, by bringing our imaginations together in one place, and that like Jesus with the loaves and fishes, we can feed everyone through an attitude of abundance. I declare the possibility that all people everywhere share this hunger, and deserve to be fed what will most nourish them.

What is your possibility? What is the crossroads where you find yourself at this stage of your life or work in the project around which we are assembled? What declaration of possibility can you make that has the power to transform the community and inspire you?





Blogged with the Flock Browser

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Prof's Response to Devilvet

In response to devilvet's suggestion that Don Hall, Isaac Butler, and I suspend our blogging activities until the current economic crisis is over, I can speak only for myself: this blog will continue. While I am currently in rehearsal, there are times when we bloggers will have to do more than one thing at a time. But I do call on devilvet, Don, and Isaac to join me in preparing a multi-blog response to the resignation of Dana Gioia as head of the NEA. Now is the time to put aside our disagreements and stand shoulder to shoulder, united against one common enemy: Christopher Charles Isherwood.

Give me a fist bump, guys. We can do this.

[Note to my readers: I have nothing against Christopher Isherwood, although I do think his Berlin stories are overrated.]
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Life Is a Verb: Chapter 2: Start With "I"

[This is part of an on-going series devoted to Patti Digh's Life Is a Verb, a book that I highly recommend. While I will be discussing the book in detail, I will be focusing on the take-away ideas. The real wonder of this book is in the illustrative essays that are warm, funny, and whimsical, and the illustrations (provided by her 37 Days blog readers after she did an open call for works of art that were inspired by her blog posts). My musings should not be seen as a substitute for reading the book. Please go buy it.]

Chapter 2 of Patti Digh's Life Is a Verb is entitled "Start With 'I'." It is about the power we give away when we focus on what "They" must do in order for change to happen, as opposed to what I can do. Her recommendation: "Stop saying they." She describes an organization she was hired to consult at where people were allotted certain size offices, wall heights, and office furniture according to their position within the company, and the last straw for many of the employees was that Vice Presidents got visitors chairs with arms, whereas others who had visitors chairs had no arms (if they had visitors chairs at all). Those arms were symbols of a whole string of grievances, but when she asked them if they had suggestions how to fix the situation, everyone talked about what They had to do.

"It occurred to me," Patti writes, "We give up our power to the very people who took it away from us in the first place."

She goes on:

"Why do I step back from participating in my own life? To whom am I giving over the power about my own life? Why am I waiting for permission? Why am I letting other people measure my worth in cubicle wall height? What story am I telling myself about myself? What stories do They tell about me that's I've started believing? What does it mean to be in the shadow of Their story about me?"

Last night (or, rather, early this morning), I had a dream. I dreamed I was at a conference hotel in New York, and there was a huge lobby. In part of the lobby there was an area where a group of elderly people were hanging out, sort of like at the mall. They had some couches, and a table and chairs. When I approached, it became clear that these were all elderly theatre people who all knew me. I was very happy to see them, and I  sat down with them to chat. They immediately asked me what I was up to these days. I told them that I was applying for a position as Dean, which puzzled them until I said that part of my motivation for going after the job was because I enjoyed "turning on the money tap for people." One woman nodded sagely, and said "There ought to be more administrators who think like that." Then I started telling them about the <100K Project, and they immediately became engaged, smiling and nodding as I described the reason for the project, completing my sentences before I could get them out. "I just want to provide some sense --" I said. "--of stability," one woman said, beaming at me. "Yes!," I said. Then her eyes misted over: "I can't tell you how much I would have liked to have provided a stable home for my kids when I was working as an actress. But I had to travel from place to place all the time, so..." Her voice trailed off. Another woman spoke up, telling me about her three marriages that had broken up because she was never home to take care of things. I was totally embraced by their sense of understanding and acceptance for the changes I was trying to implement. They were smiling, and nodding at me, and ---- click "--Paulson, speaking of the proposed bailout" -- the alarm went off on the bedstand next to me. I hit the snooze bar, and laid there thinking about my dream.

I so infrequently remember my dreams, or even remember whether I dreamed or not, that it is a real event if I something sticks with me and is in the least bit vivid. Usually, my dreams are incredibly boring, especially compared to the much flashier and symbolically rich dreams my wife often has.

I had a dream last night," I'll tell her.

"Yes?," she'll say, interested in any insight into my opaque inner life.

"Yes. I was mowing the grass. Then I woke up." Ahem. "I think what this means," I go on, a bit desperate, "is that I have allowed my work life to get sort of overgrown and I need to trim it back a little." Right. Move over, Carl Jung.

But this dream was different. It didn't really need to be interpreted; what it meant was pretty clear. My wife, whose ability to illuminate even my lawnmowing dreams often leads to flashes of pure insight, said it best this morning: "You got the blessings of the elders!" I don't know, but I do know this: I felt totally rested, and totally at peace, and I have felt that way all day today despite the fact that my show opens in about a week, I was almost out of gas in a town that is suffering from rampant gas shortages, and I had a radio interview about my show at noon. I should have been frantic, tight as a tick. But I wasn't. My back, which has been killing me in the morning for weeks, was painfree and relaxed.

Something important happened during that dream, if today's painless mood is any indication, though I can't quite put my finger on what it was. If, as Jungian psychology would say, every part of a dream is a part of you, then I had just received the blessings of some wizened part of myself, a positive, open, supportive part that seemed to know and approve of my efforts on behalf of others. And as a result, I feel more open and generous toward others, calmer and happier. And rested, when I ought to be exhausted.

When I write this blog, I seem to find it important that my readers be persuaded, that they approve. They. And when they do what I do, which is only leave a comment if I have read something I disagree with (because what would be the point of simply approving of somebody else's idea, right?), then I have to fight with them because 1) I am attache to being right (p 77), and 2) I want their approval. And this extends to larger issues as well. Am I really all that focused on trying to reform the TCG and American Theatre? Do I really think it necessary to deliver media recognition to theatres across the country, and to counter negative images of rural and small town life? Does the <100K Project really rely on getting Them to change?

"Yes, we need to work on the systems...There's no doubt work needs to be done there, and there's no doubt we don't sometimes have the power to make those changes ourselves. But many times we can't wait for the systems that created the mess to fix themselves. We can't wait for the conditions to be right for change. It will take too long. It's not in Their best interest: things are just dandy from where They sit in Their chairs with arms. The crown fits them."

The solution?

"We cannot give our power away to the people who took it from us in the first place. Put arms on your own chair. If arms are that important to you, then duct tape them on if you must. Find the change you can make and make it. You'll be funding your own revolution. Start with I."

It's not that I don't care about my Nylachi afficionados, or the TCG, or the mass media. I just can't wait for you to be persuaded. I need to find the change I can make and make it. Over at R. Winsome, Rex is busy devising his own manifesto for a way to break out of the commercial arts world. His is built on Richard Florida's The Creative Class, mine was inspired by Daniel Quinn's Beyond Civilization. His solutions may not be exactly what I think, but when I visit his site and see comments that focus on why his vision isn't possible, or isn't practical, or isn't attractive in some way, I want to take him to his own inner conference hall corridor and let him spend some time with his inner elders. Same with George Hunka. A recent exchange of comments on his blog resulted in this sidenote from George: "I will need to go through our correspondence and previous posts, Scott -- a substantive discussion here which hasn't given rise to churlishness on either side, though no doubt we'll disagree on some essentials. Something's clearly gone wrong." George has created a vision of theatre minima, and taken the time to develop his ideas step by step, post by post. He's started with himself, and not insisted that anyone else change first.

Many of us would like to reject the status quo and create something new. But we can't wait for conditions to change, and we certainly can't wait to be empowered by those who have achieved a level of success in that system or who have committed their lifeblood to working within it. We need to duct tape arms on our own chair, or sit on the floor, or better yet straddle our chair (which is something that can't be done by someone with a chair with arms).

But it starts with I, not They.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Monday, September 22, 2008

Life Is a Verb: The Mini-Series

On Saturday evening, my wife and I went downtown to our iconic independent bookstore, Malaprops, to hear my friend Patti Digh read from her new book, Life Is a verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally. We had never been to a reading at Malaprops, nor a book reading anywhere else for that matter, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We had a cup of great coffee, settled at a little table, and listened as Patti read portions of her wonderful book.

As some of you know, I am currently in rehearsal for my production of Psycho Beach Party, which opens October 1st, and this weekend was my last days off until October 11th. So would I have been sitting at Malaprops Saturday night if I didn't know Patti, and if I didn't know that she was hoping my wife and I would be there? Hell no. I would have been lying on my couch with a cat on my lap reading a book and snoozing intermittently while my wife knits. But because I knew Patti, I went, and afterwards I was glad I did, and having done so once, I will be more likely to go to Malaprops for another reading. Which is, of course, the theatre moral of the story: there are few things more powerful than a personal invitation from somebody you actually know.

While I was waiting for the reading to begin, I opened the book randomly to p 77, which read as follows:

"How are you doing?" she asked as I entered her office.

"I'm okay," I said.

She sat, quietly, looking at me.

"Okay, I'm a little stressed out, I guess." My accupuncturist, Hanna, invokes truth by silence better than anyone else I know.

I was in a situation at the time that was maddening -- and in which I knew I was right. So, I held forth. She listened. And listened some more. "Let's get you on the table and we can continue this conversation," she said.

Then I was prone, under a sheet, and she was holding my hand, taking my pulses. She paused.

"Patti, why do you yhink you are so attached to being right about this situation?" she asked.

Blink.

Why am I so attached to being right? Oh, I don't know, this is just a wild stab, but maybe --

BECAUSE I'M RIGHT?

"Because it's so clear I'm right," I said. "Can't you see I'm right? There's just no way I'm not right!"

"Why is being right about this so important to you?"

Blink.

"And doesn't everyone have their own version of right?" she asked.

Blink.

"I wonder what would happen if you gave up your need to be right?"

Damn. She can do more in four quiet questions than I can do in a lifetime.

I closed the book, took a deep breath, drank some more coffee. My wife was knitting, and at one point she was quiet while she concentrated on some fine point, so I took the pause to open up the book at random again.

Page 77. Again.

Then the reading started. Patti came out, charming and whimsically funny, and she explained the background of the book, how she originally started her 37 Days blog to after her stepfather passed away 37 days after being diagnosed with cancer, and how she wanted to write something for her young daughters to serve as a guidebook. It was a gift for them. Then she started dipping in to read a few sections. She read a beautiful section called "Write to Remember," about a relative with Alzheimer's. And then she started a new section:

"How are you doing?" she asked as I entered her office.

"I'm okay," I said.

She sat, quietly, looking at me.

"Okay, I'm a little stressed out, I guess." My accupuncturist, Hanna, invokes truth by silence better than anyone else I know.

Page 77. Again.

After the reading was over, I asked my wife to open her copy of the book randomly. She looked at me like I was nuts, but did. I wanted to see whether there was something in the binding of this book that made all the copies automatically open to page 77. Nope -- she turned to another page entirely.

Now, believe it or not, I have a certain mystical orientation. (I know, I know -- I come across as a total left-brain zealot.) So when the universe is trying to tell me something, I try to pay attention. So I read further. Page 78:

"As the poet Rumi wrote, somewhere between right and wrong is a place we can meet and talk. Shouting across the expanse of that field only makes us hoarse -- what if we each walk toward the center instead? Even when we are right -- when someone is using racial slurs, for example -- we need to find better ways of bringing others along rather than alienating them. Most of all, differences of opinion are opportunities for learning."

And page 79:

"Choose with integrity: Speak up, yet detach from 'rightness.' Stand tall, yet bend to meet others. Move from Why aren't they doing more? to Why aren't we doing more? to Why am I not doing more? Do something. Extend yourself."

That evening, I started reading the book from the beginning. Each page seemed for me. Page 7:

"No revolution in outer things is possible without prior revolutions in one's inner way of being. Whatever change you aspire to...must be preceded by a change in heart"
    -- I Ching hexagram 49


I haven't really mentioned it, but last week was a little stressful. Without going into great detail, I had a little health issue that had me thinking it might be the c-word. A hurried trip to the doctor seems to be leading in another direction, one that some antibiotics will take care of. But for a couple days, in the midst of teaching and rehearsing, I looked my life in the face fairly directly.

Then this reading.

For quite a while, I have used this blog as place to discuss things "out there" -- the theatre, the culture, artists. And despite the recent controversy I provoked, I think I need to take this blog inward for a while. Use it to do some reflection, take some stock. And I think I'll do it by following Patti Digh's book. So far, I think she's written it for me. But you might want to read it, too. It's awfully good.

Anyway, if you like the outwardly focused Theatre Ideas, you'll probably need to ignore me for a while -- probably about a month, or 37 days to be exact. For those of you who will be embarrassed to listen while a middle-aged man gets introspective, I totally understand. And who knows, I may get impatient myself.

Nevertheless, I think I'm going to take an inward turn for a while.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Economic Bailout

This has nothing to do with theatre. But I think that this discussion of the economic bailout is persuasive.
Blogged with the Flock Browser