On a recent Saturday morning, a moment of serendipity prompted a drop in viewing of a young playwrights festival. While the intent was to peek in, say hello and then run, the reality was an hour and a half of riveting theatre. Kids still in High School were exploring issues far beyond what one might expect.
A woman dominated by her husband, another having a problem differentiating between herself and the family dog—these were just two of the one acts staged at Theatre of Note on a recent Saturday morning. Other topics included the mass hysteria of religious fanaticism, the consequences of a life misspent, and the overwhelming feeling of life being nothing more than a pile of, in the writer’s words, “poop.”
These are not new questions. They were, however, seen with the fresh eyes of a few young talents who are just now recognizing that the human condition is worth exploring. The fact that these fledgling writers have chosen theatre as the medium of their speculation speaks volumes to the strength and vitality of the stage.
Many of the not-for-profit theatres throughout our community have developed programs reaching out to a wide variety of peoples, all in an effort to allow the larger community to see our shared world through someone else’s eyes.
Some reach out to seniors that can’t get out on their own, others serve youths at risk. Some companies focus their efforts on the special needs of young members of the gay – lesbian – transgender community or those that are homeless. In short each theatre company extends efforts not just to put up works for our consumption; they exert considerable diligence to help our community at large.
Bare in mind, these are theatre companies that struggle in many cases just to keep their doors open. In effect, while the focus of governance of these companies is demanded for their very survival, they nonetheless donate time and energy to assure the betterment of their community as well as the advancement and continuum of the arts themselves.
What a profound example of citizenship these tireless, dedicated theatres are providing to us, the audience. While we clamor for the best deals in tickets, wanting to be entertained for nothing, or next to nothing, they struggle to serve the community. Each company and each participant gives of themselves not with the awareness that there is a paycheck at the end of the day, but the belief that by acting altruistically, the payoff will benefit us all.
How then can we help? What part do we play in this drama when schools cut arts programs, where the NEA is struggling for its very existence while each new generation coming of age deserves the resources to delve as deeply as possible into the mysteries of life? How do we participate? Do we? Should we? If you have to ask these later questions, you’re missing the boat. We must participate. If we grasp that theatre is a community event, and understand that it addresses our needs and responds to our questions; then we are responsible for theatres very existence. Not just for ourselves, but for our children, their children and all the generations to follow
First and foremost, rethink the need to buy the cheapest tickets you can find. So-called discount services end up charging you fees that bring the price back to nearly to what you would have paid had you purchased the tickets directly.
Second, find a company that has a program that speaks to you. If there is a pressing social issue you care about, there is probably a theatre company that is working on resolving that issue: find them, support them, and donate to them. If you can’t donate money, there are many other ways you can help. Look at the “Wish List” that is most likely on their website or in their program. Volunteer, get involved, be a part of the community by being a part of theatre.
The pressing questions that cause a young girl to wonder why her mother can’t differentiate herself from the family dog are the questions that will form the characters of tomorrow. How we encourage those inquiries, how we nurture the ability to explore the alternatives, will affect all of our tomorrows.
Theatre is the very fiber that we use to knit our civilization together. Our hopes and dreams, our questions and our answers, are all reflected by the musing that occur on the stage. The support we offer enables us and the constituencies served by these theatres to find better alternatives and forge stronger bounds to all of those around us. Through our encouragement, we can help to make life much more than a pile of “poop.”