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Thank you for this, today.

30/08/2009

My heart and mind are truly confused to an extent that defies precedent, and at war amongst themselves, about the work that is and that is not being created. About the big “next steps” about the personal, the public, the trivial and perhaps even the profound (though far be it from me to comprehend the beginning of such a dilemma). Largely about theatre, but in some ways in fact, just about progress, administration, bad habits. About my shrinking vocabulary, my loss of desire to read books, my waning passion. I am made most afraid by these. My grasp (and love) of concepts is growing dumb and slow and indifferent. The longer I sit and meditate on this state, the more it encroaches, seeps in until my brain is black. I am taking myself walking now to try to clear the clouds a little so that there is at least a lucid line of thought upon which to begin in there somewhere.

My thanks goes to E. Hunter Spreen upon whose blog, Piefurcation, I today found this, which is exactly what I needed right now:

A man in our society is not left alone. Not in the cities. Not in the woods. We must have commerce with our fellows, and that commerce is difficult and uneasy. I do not understand how to live in this society. I don’t get it. Each person has an enormous effect. Call it environmental impact if you like. Where my foot falls, I leave a mark, whether I want to or not. We are linked together, each to each. You can’t breathe without taking a breath from somebody else. You can’t smile without changing the landscape. And so I ask the question: Why is theatre so ineffectual, unnew, not exciting, fussy, not connected to the thrilling recognition possible in dreams?

It’s a question of spirit. My ungainly spirit thrashes around inside me making me feel lumpy and sick. My spirit is this moment dissatisfied with the outward life I inhabit. Why does my outward life not reflect the enormity of the miracle of existence? Why are my eyes blinded with always new scales, my ears stopped with thick chunks of fresh wax, why are my fingers calloused again? I don’t ask these questions lightly. I beat on the stone door of my tomb. I want out! Some days I wake up in a tomb, some days on a grassy mound by a river. Today, I woke up in a tomb. Why does my spirit sometimes retreat into a deathly closet? Perhaps it is not my spirit leading the way at such times, but my body, longing to lie down in marble gloom, and rot away.

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.

John Patrick Shanley, preface to the The Big Funk

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