World Theatre Day Is Here

history1Hello, good morning, and welcome to the Saturday Morning News Post!

Readers, it’s World Theatre Day this weekend, and you’re either really excited to go support this art form or,… you had no idea there was such a thing as World Theatre Day. If you’re in Vancouver you can find out what’s playing here (As usual, the SMNP has the inside track on what’s hot, and my money’s on the dark comedy Evelyn Strange by Stewart Lemoine , on now until April 2nd!). Since I’m in Montreal, I’ll be finding a show somewhere here.

As SMNP readers are aware, we’re living in the Information Age. That’s right, we’ve got our very own age, which is pretty exciting really,… if only we had time to reflect on how amazing this time really is. But we don’t. There’s just so damn much to do online, where will we find the time?! I’m slowly working my way through the seasons upon seasons of comedy shows here, trying to catch up on all the great Stevie Wonder albums I never listened to here, and I’m at least 2 years behind on all the “brilliant” recent television programs (Treme, The Wire, Dead Wood, etc.). Meanwhile, I just found all the “Mad Men” episodes streaming at CTV.ca ,… there go my evenings for the rest of the month!

Oh, and in case you hadn’t noticed, all of the above entertainment is FREE. And that’s not even mentioning youtube, facebook, or any of the ill-gotten gains available through on-line piracy.

Perhaps you’re thinking It’s 2011 Danderfer. Why should I go out and pay to see theatre at all when I could sit alone in my apartment with endless amounts of streaming entertainment to keep me occupied? To answer that question I’m going to hand it over to another Canadian author, Michel Ouellette (and translated by Linda Gaboriau) who wrote this. Enjoy…

We live in a rushed world. We rush around frantically, in a constant rush. Hurry, hurry! Faster! Let’s go. Get a move on! Don’t waste a minute. Time is money. Sell, buy. Surf the internet to find the best deal. We are caught in the weave of the web. The network has caught our eye, our ear. The interactive screen touches us, jostles us, draws us even deeper into the technological dance, managed so efficiently, it binds us together in a noisy, cyber silence. Time is wild and space is virtual. We seek soul‐mating and we find links that connect us to highways that lead to the outer edge of our realities.

And yet… I find myself seeking a place, voices and bodies, light. I find a theatre. I enter…

Inside there is a hall plunged in soft darkness. There are many of us. We wait. We whisper, while waiting – for the mystery of incarnation that will soon unfold before us. Suddenly, a noise fills the air, music rises, light fills a space in which beings come to life. Then silence descends on our side of the hall. We turn our eyes and our ears to these flesh and blood beings who reach out to us, invite us in. Tension rises – something is about to happen. Actors give of themselves, offering us a precious gift: an escape from our rushed lives. We stop rushing around madly and we remain in this other world that cannot exist without us. The illusion of theatre becomes reality. Time is transformed. Space surrounds us. We are sitting, simultaneously, in our seats and on the stage. We are reincarnated. The words the characters speak are our words, too. They vibrate inside us and reveal in the depths of our being dazzling shards of memory and emotion. A word conjures the face of someone we know, don’t know or barely know, the ghost of a feeling is embodied. The feeling crystallizes. We experience, we relive something that never had time to live in the other rushed world. It takes shape. It takes on meaning, an inside‐out meaning. It glows. It’s an inner light on the surface of our pupils where a tear of joy or sadness is poised. We get caught up in the action, along with the others, despite the others, alone and together. Theatre holds us in its thrall until the end. We applaud, as if to say that we approve of this descent into the confines of our selves. Then the lights in the hall go up on us. Stunned, we once again don our social masks, to protect everything that glows inside, to hold this light within us as long as
possible.

Theatre is a means of fighting what dehumanizes us, mechanizes us, digitalizes us. It is an opportunity to connect with aspects of ourselves that all too often escape us. It reminds us that we are not alone in confronting the mysteries of life and death. We are organic networks, a web of sensitive links, fragile and unstable, always seeking balance, on the path to happiness. Perhaps, when all is said and done, our humanity is forged in the theatre.

Thanks for reading everyone, and have a great week! jd

(above drawing from the National Archives: The Neptune Inn, Quebec City, in the 18th century; the kind of gathering place which served as this country’s earliest theatrical venues)

  • http://shaunajohannesen.com Shauna Johannesen

    James,

    I love this. As a theatre artist and playwright myself, I often wonder if what I do is important or valuable or effectual in any way. And yet, I cannot escape the feeling that there is something…something in the word made incarnate before our very eyes that is life-giving, and connecting in ways we all very much crave and don’t experience nearly so often as we would like.

    Robert McKee in his book on screenwriting writes “Life on its own, without art to shape it, leaves you in confusion and chaos, but aesthetic emotion harmonizes what you know with what you feel to give you a heightened awareness and a sureness of your place in reality. In short, a story well told gives you the very thing you cannot get from life: meaningful emotional experience. In life, experiences become meaningful with reflection in time. In art, they are meaningful now, at the instant they happen” I think that is largely true. We want things to have meaning and to know they have meaning and to feel their import. And to see a story truthfully unfold in the very bodies, emotions and interactions of real, live people you could reach out and touch through the “fourth wall” is startling and deeply moving. The fact that there is so much poor theatre out there, or so much art that doesn’t fulfill its promise doesn’t negate its power and potential.

    So thanks for such a stirring smnp! In celebration of World Theatre Week, I will see your quote and raise you one from the great playwright John Patrick Shanley (author of Doubt) who writes “Theatre is a safe place to do the unsafe things that need to be done. When it’s not a safe place, it’s abusive to actors and audiences alike. When its safety is used to protect cowards masquerading as heroes, it’s a boring travesty. An actor who is truly heroic reveals the divine that passes through him, that aspect of himself that he does not own and cannot control. The control and the artistry of the heroic actor is in service to his soul.

    We live in an era of enormous cynicism. Do not be fooled.

    Don’t act for money. You’ll start to feel dead and bitter.

    Don’t act for glory. You’ll start to feel dead, fat, and fearful.

    We live in an era of enormous cynicism. Do not be fooled.

    You can’t avoid all the pitfalls. There are lies you must tell. But experience the lie. See it as something dead and unconnected you clutch. And let it go.

    Act from the depth of your feeling imagination. Act for celebration, for search, for grieving, for worship, to express that desolate sensation of wandering through the howling wilderness.

    Don’t worry about Art.

    Do these things, and it will be Art.”

  • http://jamesdanderfer.com james

    Excellent counter-quote Shauna! These ideas are by and large true for musicians as well.

    “The fact that there is so much poor theatre out there, or so much art that doesn’t fulfill its promise doesn’t negate its power and potential.” This is a good line too.