Monday, April 22, 2019

Putting the YOU in Utopia

You know those days where you wonder if what you’re doing has any effect on the world whatsoever? The other day in rehearsal while surrounded by 4 foot tall swan puppets I thought to myself, “Wars are being waged… injustices are occurring across the globe… people are dying from famine and disease… and MY biggest concern right now is how to get the trumpet to stay in the puppets mouth?!?!?” It seemed like what I filled my days and nights with just didn’t mean anything…I was ready to chuck my TYA career out the window and become some sort of Peace Core/Freedom Fighter/Superhero in a fabulous uniform…Then I read something the following day while taking a coffee break…

In between rehearsals and watching Presidential primary results, I’ve waitlisted reading the latest Grisham novel in favor of Jill Dolan’s Utopia in Performance: Finding Hope at the Theater. Dolan writes “moments of liminal clarity and communion, briefly transcendant bits of human feeling and connection, spring from alchemy between performers and spectators and their mutual confrontation with a historical present that lets them imagine a different, putatively better future.”

And in between sips of my grande non-fat latte, I had a moment of epiphany. (Either epiphany or the caffeine kicked in.) I thought about the “future”… in the current political campaigns that word is bandied about a lot…but it really hit home as I stared at the text. I do TYA because I want to effect the future… see that’s what I was doing while obsessing over my  swan puppets… I was hoping to inspire the next generation of theatre goers… of world leaders…. of human beings…as an artist I am a part of effecting the future. (Cue Whitney Houston’s Greatest Love of All)

I guess I’ll be a director and postpone becoming a Peace Core/Freedom Fighter/Superhero in a fabulous uniform for another day.


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    0 Response

    1. Rebecca Podsednik

      I love the new look at the NEXT blog! Also, very interesting posts so far.

      In my graduate student brain and with eagerness to see what lies ahead, I want to believe that we can all work in a place that makes us excited everyday.

      It’s amazing to me that sometimes it takes going to conferences, witnessing great productions, reading inspiring pieces of writing, in order to be recharged to continue to forge on in our own endeavors and create work that we feel is contributing to the field as a whole.

      I’ve recently been involved more than ever in the administrative side of TYA and I love it. So, we all find our own ways to contribute.

      Or perhaps I should say, “how lucky we are” that we can still be inspired on those occasions instead of being in such a state of mind that every little detail is a hardship and going to work becomes frustrating.

      How fortunate are we to be in a field that still has the ability to make us excited creatively, artistically, administratively, educationally…

    2. Mary Kate Karr

      There was a small TYA production here in Denver a couple years back called “Tribal Tales of Africa,” which was developed and presented as a companion piece for a simultaneous production of “The Syringa Tree.” I thought “Tribal Tales” was a great piece — fantastic 4-person cast, imaginative and economic design, wonderful storytelling. The Denver Post theater critic, John Moore, gave it a suitably glowing review (and named it the Best Children’s Production for the year), but devoted the last couple of paragraphs to his feeling that it was disingenuous to present such a ‘happy’ perspective of Africa without also mentioning the many problems the continent is currently facing (war, famine, AIDS, genocide), and was such an approach really the best way to serve young audiences? To which my response was, Yes! Yes it is absolutely the best way to introduce young audiences (I saw a lot of 4-8 year olds in that audience along with their families) to Africa, by describing the different countries and regions, the wildlife, the cultural values, and the legends that have been passed through the generations. And then maybe in 10 or 20 years, when those kids are old enough to process the tragedy of Darfur or the importance of access to clean water, they will already have an empathy and an interest in those issues because they know that human lives are the bottom line. My belief is that exposure to the humanities — and not just a steady diet of entertainment — will make all of us better world citizens when it comes time to vote or decide how to spend our money because we will understand that the world is our neighborhood.

      So get to work on that fabulous uniform, because you already are a Freedom Fighter.

    3. I agree with Ms. Karr; you *should* get to work on that fabulous uniform. Perhaps you will start a new trend–just as John Malkovich is reported to wear a full suit to every rehearsal, you can wear your uniform to every rehearsal. And I also agree that you are a Freedom Fighter.

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