Monday, March 03, 2014

Theater As A Repository Of History In Story Form

I've had a notebook on my reference shelf for a very long time.  It contains the step by step procedures used for the capital fund drive for a small theater in western Washington that was used as the theater began expanding along with the area's interest in the arts.  Back in the 1990s!  It's as timely today.

When I read that the new artistic director of our summer theater had spent time expanding his experience at the theater I thought he might like to have the book.  After I gave it to him this morning we talked  over coffee.  And talked.  And talked.

Knowing this was on my agenda got me thinking about how things in life can intertwine. In this case, theater and blogging of all things.  I am on occasion asked why I do what I do.  The answer is borne from my frustration with what I view as the disintegration of what our country used to be.  If people of my generation don't talk about what once was and why, telling the story, it will be lost to the new normal.  To me that would be both tragic and frightening.

And this correlates to theater how?  Because theater does much the same thing. Not movies, mind you, but theater.  In a reflective piece on his Facebook page this young actor wrote about  how he sees himself as one such story teller.  Bringing to life what was written without political revision, but rather as written by the playwrights of the day.  As they saw and recorded life around them.  Before the deception of politics intervened.  I related to that and looked a bit deeper.

In a world filled with instant gratification and communication, the 30 second attention span, the dumbing down of standards, the elimination of expectations, handouts for the sake of it, the denial of exceptionalism - theater is the one venue that is the antithesis.

Though the end is entertainment, gratification, for the viewer, it comes from nothing but hard work from the page to the stage.  It requires a work ethic barely known any more.  There is no aspect of theater that does not require training and ability.  You just can't walk in and state you want to be an actor or a director.  You just can't block a play or build a set or orchestrate a score or even design a costume without training.  You cannot perfect the product without rehearsal.  But when done, when all put together, it can be magnificent and if you're so inclined, inspirational, an intellectual honesty, a tale of morality and quite thought provoking.  This does not come without dedication, ability and commitment to intent.

I'm almost afraid to muse about this for fear that once the seed is planted there will be those who will try to revise these written words.  Of course then it will no longer be as intended.  Bastardized more to the truth.  Desecrated just as if I took a brush to the Mona Lisa to make her more to my liking.

I applaud this young man.  This story teller.  And the passion he has for what he does.  I hope he never loses it.  We need the story tellers as long as the stories they tell are truths.  Changing any aspect of it changes it into an interpretation we have no right to make.  Theater seems to have the upper hand.  May they forever cherish it and be as storytellers, forever beholden to it.

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