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  • Yeah.

  • Oh, firm use of fire that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention, a kingdom for a stage, princes to act and monarchs to behold.

  • The swelling scene, though, to be totally honest right now, I'd settle for a real school day, a night out and a hug from a friend.

  • I do have to admit that Wrigley Field does make a pretty awesome stage, though.

  • The words that I spoke at the beginning o for a muse of fire etcetera are Shakespeare's.

  • He wrote them as the opening to his play, Henry the Fifth.

  • And there are also quite likely the first words ever spoken on the stage of the Globe Theatre in London.

  • When it opened in 15 99 the Globe would go on to become the home for most of Shakespeare's work.

  • And from what I hear, that Shakespeare guy was pretty popular.

  • But despite his popularity just four years later, in 16 oh three, the Globe would close for an extended period of time in order to prevent the spreading and resurgence of the bubonic plague.

  • In fact, from 16 oh 3 to 16 13, all of the theaters in London were closed on and off again for an astonishing 78 months here in Chicago.

  • In 2016 new theaters were opening as well.

  • The step in Wolf had just opened its 1700 theater space.

  • The Good Men Down in the Loop had just opened its new Center for Education and Engagement, and the Chicago Shakespeare Theater had just started construction on its newest theater space, The Yard.

  • Today, all of those theaters, as well as the homes are over 250.

  • Other theater companies across Chicago are closed due to Covid 19 from Broadway to L.

  • A.

  • Theaters are dark, and we don't know when or if the lights are ever gonna come on again.

  • That means that tens of thousands of theater artists are out of work, from actors and directors to stage managers.

  • Set builders, costume designers.

  • It's not like it's an easy time to go wait tables.

  • It's a hard time for the theater, and it's a hard time for the world.

  • But while theaters may be dark, theater as an art form has the potential to shine a light on how we can process and use this time apart to build a brighter, more equitable healthier future together.

  • Theatre is the oldest art form we humans have.

  • We know that the Greeks were writing plays as early as the fifth century BC But theater goes back before that.

  • It goes back before we learn to write, to call and response around fires.

  • And who knows, maybe before we learned to build fire itself.

  • Theatre has outlasted empires, weathered wars and survived plagues In the early 16 hundreds, theaters were closed over 60% of the time in London, and that's still looked at as one of the most fertile and innovative periods of time in Western theater history.

  • The plays that were written then are still performed today over 400 years later.

  • Unfortunately, in the early 16 hundreds, a different plague was making its way across the ocean, and it hit the shores of what would be called America in 16 19, when the first slave ships landed in Jamestown, Virginia.

  • Racism is an ongoing plague in America, but many of us in the theater like to think we're not infected or that we are at worst is symptomatic.

  • But the truth is, our symptoms have been glaring onstage and off.

  • We have the opportunity to use this intermission caused by one plague to work.

  • To cure another.

  • We can champion a theater that marches, protests, burns, builds.

  • We can reimagine the way our theaters and institutions work to make them more reflective.

  • And just we can make this one of the most innovative and transformative periods of time in Western theater history, one that we are still learning about and celebrating 400 years from now.

  • What we embody in the theater can be embodied in the world.

  • Why?

  • Because theater is an essential service, and what I mean by that is that theater is in service to that which is essential about ourselves.

  • Love, anger, rage, joy, despair, Hope Theater not only shows us the breadth and depth of human emotions, it allows us to experience catharsis, to feel our feelings and rather than ignore or compartmentalize them, move through them to discover what's on the other side.

  • Now, many art forms connect us to our emotions, but what makes the theater unique is that it reveals us to ourselves on stage so that we can see that our lives are about our relationships and our connections to others to our parents to our Children, to our teachers, to our tormentors, to our lovers, to our friends.

  • What we do when we engage with theater is we experience in real time in real space.

  • Those relationships and connections changing in the present.

  • The relationships between characters on stage, yes, but also the relationships between characters and the audience and the relationships between audience members themselves.

  • We go to the theater because we seek connection.

  • And when we're in the theater, our hearts beat as one.

  • That's not a metaphor.

  • Our hearts race together.

  • They're soothe together.

  • We breathe together.

  • Aye, there's the rub.

  • Who knows when we're gonna be able to be together again in the same space, breathing in the same air, breathing in the same experience?

  • Who knows when we're gonna want to be?

  • We are holding our breath.

  • Luckily, theater doesn't just have to happen in theaters s theatre practitioners.

  • We know some of the most important work we do happens offstage in rehearsal spaces, garage spaces, studio apartments.

  • At the beginning of this talk, I wished for a kingdom for a stage, princes to act and monarchs to watch the show.

  • But the truth is, none of that is necessary.

  • In fact, some of the most important theater I make happens on Monday mornings in an empty hospital meeting room with just a handful of folks.

  • And only two of us are theater artists.

  • The memory ensemble, as we call ourselves as a collaboration between the looking Glass Theater and Northwestern Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Research, We begin each session with a mantra.

  • I am a creative person.

  • When I feel anxious or uncertain, I can stop, breathe, observe and use my imagination.

  • Anyone else feeling anxious or uncertain?

  • Right now, let's say it together.

  • I am a creative person.

  • When I feel anxious or uncertain, I can stop, breathe, observe and use my imagination.

  • Let's look at the first part of that statement.

  • I am a creative person.

  • Many of us have been taught that creativity is a talent.

  • Only some of us have a skill reserved for artists, inventors, big thinkers that it's not something for regular people with quote unquote real jobs.

  • But that's not true.

  • All humans are innately creative.

  • It's part of what makes us human.

  • And if there was ever a time for us to exercise our creativity, it's now not to solve or fix our anxiety and uncertainty, but to learn from it and to move through it.

  • So the first step is to stop.

  • Uh huh, that's harder than it sounds.

  • Busy is a coping mechanism that we use to deal with our anxiety and uncertainty, and our society is addicted to it.

  • So we find ourselves making all the tick tocks, baking, all the bread, taking all the zoom meetings.

  • Maybe you've even seen that meme about how Shakespeare wrote King Lear during his pandemic, which I think is supposed to inspire us, but instead just makes us feel guilty that we're not creating our own masterpieces right now.

  • You know, in addition to taking care of our Children or our parents or our students, our patients, our clients or customers are friends ourselves.

  • So a screw that guilt and be that's like the opposite of what King Lear is actually about.

  • Towards the end of Lear, one of the main characters, Edgar says, the weight of this sad time we must obey, speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.

  • The lesson of Lear is not about pushing or producing or doing what you think you should do?

  • The lesson of Lear is about stopping and taking the time to appreciate who and what you have in your life and discover who you want to be While you have it.

  • We're at an intermission, and intermissions are important because they give ourselves the opportunity to take care of ourselves physically and emotionally.

  • Go to the bathroom, get a snap, get a drink and also take a moment to feel the weight of what just happened on stage.

  • Maybe begin to process any emotions that that brought up.

  • I reached out to my community of artists, and I asked them what plays were speaking to them and helping them process.

  • This time, many of the characters in the plays they sent don't share my lived experience, and I think their words are important to hear.

  • My friend Jeremy sent me a monologue by Sarah Rule from her melancholy play.

  • In it, the character is talking about how she's feeling, and she says, It's this feeling that you want to love strangers, that you want to kiss the man at the post office or the woman at the dry cleaners.

  • You want to wrap your arms around life, life itself.

  • But you can't.

  • And so this feeling wells up in you and there's nowhere to put this great happiness and your floating and then you fall and you you feel unbearably sad and you have to go lie down on the couch.

  • I felt that monologue a lot during this pandemic.

  • Sometimes I feel this great happiness, and sometimes I have to go lie down on the couch.

  • My theater practice teaches me that both are okay.

  • We stopped so that we can feel our feelings instead of covering them.

  • Next we breathe.

  • When we inhale, we give ourselves the opportunity to breathe in the present moment and be aware of what's happening right now inside of us as well as outside of us.

  • When we exhale, we allow ourselves to release the moment so that we can be present for the next one and the next one and the next one.

  • When we feel anxious or uncertain, we tend to hold our breath.

  • We're scared about what's gonna happen next, and so we hold on to what's happening right now, which prevents movement which keeps us stuck far from helping us holding our breath holds us back.

  • So we stopped, we breathe and then we observe what's happening around us.

  • How do we feel about that?

  • My friends Greg and Tanisha told me that I should watch the play pipeline by Dominique Morisot and at the beginning of the clay.

  • Maybe the character has been on stage for a minute.

  • Omari turns to his girlfriend, and he says that he's just like modestly without intentions, just observing.

  • And his girlfriend says, What you got to be observing for?

  • And Omari says, to take in my surroundings, learn the world, not just tied up in my own existence and nothing else.

  • That observation is the key to unlocking our empathy and our curiosity about the world and igniting our imagination about how we can make it even better.

  • My friend has mean introduced me to the play Mari, sold by Jose Rivera, and in it the guardian.

  • Angel is talking to Marisol, and she says, I don't expect you to understand the political ins and outs of what's going on, but you have eyes.

  • You've asked me questions about Children and water and war in the moon.

  • Questions I've been asking myself for 1000 years.

  • The universal body is sick, Marisol.

  • The constellations are wasting away.

  • The nausea.

  • Stars are full of blisters and sores.

  • The infected earth is running a temperature, and everywhere the universal mind is wracked with amnesia, boredom and erotic obsessions.

  • Sound familiar?

  • We stopped, We breathe, we observe.

  • And we use our observations to imagine a world that is fiercer, braver, more beautiful.

  • We use our imaginations to create something new based on our connections to the world and ourselves.

  • One of the things that I know is this.

  • There's always been a certain amount of uncertainty in the theater, but this is the most anxious and uncertain we've ever been in my lifetime.

  • In order to move forward, there's gonna have to be a lot of change.

  • Luckily, all great theater provides the opportunity for transformation.

  • We can use this intermission to stop, breathe, observe and use our imaginations to create a more beautiful world on stage and off, one that is more equitable, more reflective and more just as prior says at the end of Tony Kushner's masterpiece about the AIDS epidemic Angels in America, I'm almost done.

  • The fountain's not flowing now.

  • They turned off in the winter ice and the pipes.

  • But in the summer, it is a sight to see.

  • I want to be here to see it.

  • I plan to be I hope to be.

  • This disease will be the end of many of us, but not nearly all.

  • And the dead will be commemorated and they will struggle on with the living.

  • And we are not going away.

  • We won't die secret deaths anymore.

  • The world only spins forward.

  • We will be citizens.

  • The time has come by now.

  • You are fabulous creatures, each and everyone.

  • And I bless you.

  • More life.

  • The great work begins.

  • The theater has weathered wars, outlasted empires and survived plagues.

  • It will continue.

  • I don't know how or when or what did it look like.

  • But it will, and so are we.

  • As long as we do the essential work of staying connected to that which is essential about ourselves, our communities and our world, the great work begins.

  • Thank you.

  • Mhm.

Yeah.

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How theater weathers wars, outlasts empires and survives pandemics | Cara Greene Epstein

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/03/16
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