Sunday, March 27, 2011

World Theatre Day

Why work in theatre? Why work in theatre now?

We are all actors: being a citizen is not living in society, it is changing it.

Excerpt from the Message by Augusto Boal (World Theatre Day 2009)

Theatre is a place where we can collectively share our laughter, shed our tears and loudly demonstrate our joy or frustration. Theatre has the incredible capacity to be soul healing; it allows both the audience and artist to purge toxins and exorcise collective demons.
I challenge all of us to sustain the complexity of our world; to invite a multitude of diverse voices onto the stage. We must open the doors and windows of our theatres to let the world in. It is our responsibility; it is our burden and our gift.
We are fabulators… we are cultural watchdogs.

Excerpt from the US Message by Lynn Nottage (World Theatre Day 2010)

Art is not a mirror to reflect the world, but a hammer with which to shape it.
Bertolt Brecht

Theatre is not a reflecting mirror, it is a magnifying glass.
Vladimir Mayakovsky

From world-renowned cultural leaders to emerging/aspiring/struggling artists from each corner of the global village, the (mostly rhetorical) question is bound to pop up in our consciousness at some point: WHY am I doing this? Why didn’t I listen to my parents and become a lawyer, a doctor, an IT person? Why didn’t I invent something amazing and useful like… the washing machine, the bulb, relativity theory, Radio, TV, the aspirin, the bra, the toilet, the bike, the lipstick, the sandwich, the cell phone, Coca Cola, the frying pan, the batteries, the bed, the refrigerator, the car, the telescope, the zipper, the microprocessor… why didn’t I create Facebook?
Why didn’t I become a billionaire and buy a heavenly island where I could share the everyday bliss with my love and my kids? OK, maybe the in-laws too, once in a while. Not very often though…

Well, for people living in the so-called “third world”, in places torn by ethnic, religious, military conflicts those funny questions above don’t really apply, they’re too abstract and surreal when the on-going practical not existential dilemma is: will I survive, how can I survive?

As the unfolding uprisings in the Arab world prove – in a similar (yet different) way than the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, including the messy revolution and overthrow of Ceausescu’s totalitarian regime in my native country Romania – arts can play a major role in places where the public discourse is not civil or democratic yet, where countries are still playgrounds for ruthless or “benevolent” dictators.

Writers, poets, theatre people can make a clear and loud difference in those parts of our interconnected world, they can help social and personal truths, freedom and democracy invade the “gated community” of a political and economical elite immersed in its own self-sufficient and self-nurtured Power.

And there’s no reason to believe that theatre/arts can’t still make a strong difference in well-tested democracies too, as long as there still is injustice, inequality, discrimination, pain, individual suffering, betrayal, love, jealousy, family dysfunction, desire, ambition, competition, greed, passion… as long as we still have emotions, feelings, needs and wants. As long as we are still human. And even robots and cyborgs will have their range of e-motions, I’m sure, so there’s no way to get around dramatic conflict here, on this planet.

And for us, theatre people, it means that – yes, we might be underpaid and misunderstood sometimes – but we will never go out of business. It’s our job to explore and expose the human flaws and qualities, the power gaps, the mistreatments, the deep frustrations, the ignored traumas, the needs to build awareness on a social issue, the happy endings and the bitter beginnings, the personal yet political roller-coasters of emotions and thoughts…

C’mon, forget the WHY! We, theatre folks, are playing a necessary role in this world (and hopefully even in the next, more theatrical one). Period. No, exclamation point!

(published first in "New York City World Theatre Day Coalition" blog on March 1, 2011)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mr M.T. BLISS has something to say:
(M.T. stand for Mass Transit)

New York is not about buildings, no, it’s not about real estate
New York is about people
Under ground, above ground,
In a car
No, not an automobile
A streetcar, a trolley, a subway car
That sensual space where our brains get connected
To each other
Our sweaty bodies create
A human symphony of breaths, odors, and thoughts
A masterpiece of inter-connection
The erotic tissue of the city
A mute dialogue of eyes
Exploring each other
Facing each other, trying
To guess which thought
Passes through his her mind that moment
That very moment
That pretty lady smiles like she remembers
The hand of her lover caressing
The back of her neck this morning…
That construction worker
Stares blankly at the new day
Bringing nothing new
More sweat and work and poor pay
And “fuck this routine I wish
I had a different kinda life”
Or something along those lines…
That young gentleman in a business suit
Is ready to push push push
Make money money money
Find new smart strategies
For profit
He has the hunger of an untamed lion
Struggling to seem ready
To be tamed
To compromise
To suck up on his boss
For the sake of future rewards
We all do what we gotta do
To get ahead…
Still, that pretty lady
Is not thinking of getting ahead
She’s going back in the voluptuousness
Of the dawn
When she stretched her hand
And touched her lover’s armpit
Sweat can taste good, oh, so good
She carries her lover’s odor
In the purse of her mind
She doesn’t see anybody
I bet she didn’t notice she sits next
To that old homeless man
Trying to catch a bit of sleep
Lullaby-ed by the noisy swing
The mechanical wing
Of mass transit bliss…
And those two teenagers
Cool and hot
Dismissing everyone with their youth
“give us a break all you
old people”
There’s a child in a stroller
Across their seats
And the mother or the baby sitter
(She must be the mother
She carries love and worries in her eyes)
The mother looks at the older boys
And says quietly to her baby
“You’ll be like them one day”…
People are beautiful
Even the ugly ones
Bless Mass Transit and this closeness
This intimacy that we experience
In this car, no, not an automobile
I’m not going to pay the price
For an automobile
No, it’s not the money,
It’s the removal, the price is the removal
From humanity
It cuts you out and leaves you alone
Or in two in three in four
Nothing like this subway car
This trolley
This street car
Where my thoughts and his and hers
Are dancing the Charleston together
In this cozy Ball Room Car
Of mass transit bliss…
The pretty lady is closing her eyes
And smiles sensuously to the memory
Of her own dance
Last night or this morning…
A mysterious brazen smile
Oh, no
Don’t go!
It’s her stop
The pretty lady disappears through the doors
Gets out of the mass transit oasis
Into the big world of danger, anonymity and routines
The pretty lady turns her head
Towards me
And I catch a question mark in her eyes
An exclamation mark
A dot-dot-dot
And I can’t stop
I follow her
Follow her…