Thursday, November 4, 2010


I’ve been proto-thinking. You know, that low-level, nearly subconscious ruminating that your brain does as you bustle about your day, accomplishing tasks and shuttling yourself from place to place. When my life feels organized, these thoughts find space enough to grow into fully formed ideas that sustain reflection or inspire action. When my life feels disorganized, these thoughts are like sprouted beans trapped beneath a slab of concrete. They exist, but haven’t yet seen the light of day. They are murky and undeveloped. Proto-thoughts. Today, however, I’m taking steps towards organization which includes prying apart the concrete so these little beans can breathe.
The beans all concern theater, or else I wouldn’t bug you about them, and I planted them on purpose. As you know, I’m producing this (still unannounced) show in the spring and launching a theater company to go with. Very soon I will need to articulate what I’m trying to offer the world with these ventures, and why I think the world might need it. Important stuff. Requires serious thought, beginning with answering the fundamental question, What do I like so much about theater? Good thing I had this blog to look back on because reflecting on my first Year of Plays helped me get these seeds to sprout. Here’s the shape of them so far, and remember they are in their primitive states.
>> Sharing space with real live people. Almost all the memorable moments from the blog stem from the excitement of sharing the same physical space with the actors on stage and the audience sitting next to me. I’m thinking of the collective hush we participated in when the Stage Manager in Our Town asked us all to listen for the train. I’m thinking of the titillation in the audience at the interval for In the Next Room: Or the Vibrator Play. I’m thinking of the perplexing fascination I feel watching anyone pretend mightily right before my very eyes.

>> Breath, energy, and connection. These are vague, airy-fairy terms to most people, I fear. To me they mean something concrete. They refer to my belief that breath and energy – and by energy I literally mean the electromagnetic field that all living beings emanate – are conduits of nonverbal communication. Breath and energy connect us without us saying a word. When theater is at its best, when it affects us most deeply, it is because the breath and energy of everyone in the room is flowing freely enough to connect us to one another. That is how theater goes from being an entertaining event to a communal experience.  I'm thinking of Burning Man, but not only that.

>> The collective suspension of disbelief. I love that theater requires actors and audience to agree on a common un-reality. In order for it to work right, we must agree to suspend our disbelief and enter the alternate reality of a narrative together.

>> Holding space. Related to all of the above is a notion that theater operates in a space – both literal and metaphysical – that must be created and protected. A space that must be held open by those who create it and, ideally, by all those who enter into it.

So that’s the sum of it for now.
I think I’ll take this unspotlighted moment to disclose the name of my theater company, seeing as I feel it relates to the ideas above. The name is PARENTHESIS. It came initially from an ee cummings poem that is significant to me, but look at this:
                                                                         (          )
Tell me what you see. I see space. Space that is held. Space that is empty, except that it may contain breath. I see collectiveness. What we put inside that space is collected together, protected from what we put outside it. And perhaps – and this is stretching it – perhaps I can even see connection: a parenthesis allows us to present a new idea as separate, but not severed, from the ideas around it.  The idea is new but still connected.
Stretching it, as I said. But I’m still proto-thinking, so it's allowed.

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