February 5th, 2017, or:
Why You Should Still Go See Theater In the Time of Fascism
This is a question I know audiences have been asking, because I am an audience member, and I have been asking it myself. Why on earth should I go watch theater, pay money for a ticket, watch and indulge, when there are Senators to be called? Protests to join? Signs to be made?
Let me assure you: theater makers have been asking themselves the same question. I know this because I am also a theater maker, and I have been asking it myself. Why on earth should I make theater and ask people to pay money to see it? Why should I put on a performance? Why should I contribute to an artform that guzzles energy and materials, and is only made possible by the artifice of watching and entertaining?
Why should I do any of that when there’s so much at stake right now?
And then of course, the answer comes crashing back to me, as it always does, and as it will continue to do. It is precisely because of what is at stake that we must keep pushing forward in that artifice. That artifice allows me to see myself in you – you the audience, you the performer, you the character that is different than me. I arrive to the theater with the world in my pocket, and so I will look for the world in what I watch. Whether it’s As You Like It or Sans Everything.
The day after the Women’s March, it was the comedian Patton Oswalt who said (and I’m paraphrasing here) that while protesting and marching and calling our Senators and writing letters and making signs are necessary and instrumental actions that enable us to push against fascism, we should also reserve a day out of our week to do all the things that fascists want to take away. Go on a hike in a National Park, dance at a queer club, volunteer at a shelter, meet neighbors, draw something, write something, compose something. Go see theater. Because we have to fight for these things, absolutely, but we also have to do them, we have to show the fascists that we’re not just complaining, we’re talking about our lives here, and we’re not willing to give up our lives. Humans are some of the only animal species that make art, and that must mean that it feeds us in a way that eventually, words can no longer describe. I cannot adequately describe why I believe making theater is good for our souls, but I can say that I really love when I see the world in what I am watching, or what I have made. I really love Elizabethan messes, space travel, artificial intelligence, and existential re-imaginings. My point is that I believe you will love all these things too.
So go see theater, and we’ll see you at FringeArts on February 9th. Make sure you get your tickets early.
What we’re reading this week: “Why Isn’t Shakespeare Dead Yet?” by Susan Ahlborn