English: An audience in His Majesty’s Theatre in Perth, Western Australia, in 1932. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We come together in a darkened room—theatre artists and audience—to tell a story and in that process we discover, play with, and experience those things that make us human: virtues and vices, the ugly and beautiful, the good and bad—all of it. By theatre artists, I mean everyone involved in the production of a theatrical event. No exceptions!
But that process takes shape long before the 1st rehearsal or the 1st performance. It starts with how this group of theatre artists behaves, what they think and feel, and how they relate to each other. It’s organic and inclusive. It goes on from there to include an audience, which encounters parts of themselves that otherwise might remain closed off, ignored, or even avoided.
Sometimes that means we tell stories that ridicule, laugh at, deride, or otherwise poke fun at our hilarious attempts to try to connect or not connect with one another.
Sometimes our attempts to connect or not connect with one another are dramatic, even tragic, and we tell stories about those experiences, too. We might present a world where love doesn’t occur, cannot exist, and the consequences of living in that world: loss, grief, pathos, etc…
In our darkened room, we create a world in which the audience can project their needs and wants onto actors moving about on a stage in order to see and feel and know themselves. We create a world in which theatre artists and audience connect in a present moment experience of human relationship. The key here is presence. We must all be present in order for this organic process to be fully realized. The more present we are, the more effective the story is.
It’s because of the magic of theatre that this can occur. It’s up to each individual to make meaning of his or her experience. Our job as theatre artists begins with the preparation and ends with the invitation to that experience.
So, how do we prepare to be present, then be present, then invite others into the present moment and let go of the outcome? We use all the tools and discipline of our craft, art, and profession. We train our bodies, minds, hearts and emotions to be ready, open, agile, and healthy both as individual artists and as an ensemble of theatre artists in a cooperative company. It’s an evolving process that requires attunement and attention on many levels.
Once upon a time, I worked in a mental hospital as an intake clinician. On nights when the staff, for whatever reason, was out of sorts, the patients developed a reaction that was almost predictable: they got crazier. They reflected the dysfunctions of the staff. I’ll never forget that experience. Some of our worst nights were the ones where staff members treated each other badly. The reasons why are less significant than how we remedied the situation: we recognized the importance of cooperation, resolved with dignity and respect our differences, and suddenly the patients became calmer, functional, and more responsive.
I want to co-create and be a part of a worker owned cooperative theatre company that understands that what we do together is as important as what we do on stage in front of an audience. This simple vision is not new and certainly not revolutionary, but I believe it’s timely. I want to be part of a company of theatre artists who are a model for how we can be as a society. Sustainable, egalitarian, cooperative, just, honest and dynamic. Let me know your thoughts.
- Do The Arts Matter? (stilettosstoliandscribbles.wordpress.com)