I Fell Back in Love With Theatre…Finally. Again.
I was growing weary throughout the course of my MA. Applied Theatre. That’s the name of my course. Applied THEATRE. And yet, for the past six months, I’ve lost theatre- studying theories on facilitation styles, marginalized groups, identity, community, safety, politics, even neuroscience. Theatre? I saw it distantly as I walked past the actors in their blacks and bare feet languidly flittering about Central, as actors do, as the creatures that they are. I wasn’t jealous, per se, of their intensive Meisner sessions or wailing in front of one another about their personal lives to get that “realism” quality. Jealousy? Not exactly. But a yearning, yes. It was the art that I was searching for – it’s the reason I wanted to teach. I’ve been soaking up everything about context and not enough about content. The art of theatre got me out of the formerly scared self I once was and taught me to take opportunity into my own hands. Theatre offered change, purpose, and lightness when life felt grim, exhausting, or dull. Theatre made me stop feeling sorry for myself. It woke me up in so many ways – and when I started teaching theatre and saw that spark in other people, well, it all made sense.
I’m having that Mr. Miyagi moment now, a little more than half-way through my course. I’ve been painting the fence for a while now, and quite frankly, my arms are exhausted and I’ve ruined all of my shirts. (For my friends in the UK who didn’t grow up with the Karate Kid, watch THIS). Though, I trusted my Miyagi (Selina Busby, MA Applied Theatre Dojo Master) and when I couldn’t find what I was searching for, she reassured me, and sent me back on my path (if only I learned to actually catch a fly with chopsticks).
And then I found myself today, seated in the Lyttleton Theatre inside of the National watching Cillian Murphy give a gut-wrenching performance of the one-man show Misterman. I was perplexed, horrified, and heart-broken by it. I laughed in smatters, like the the rain that found its way in and out of the show – then stopped suddenly by a flash of light of other-wordly sound and was frozen in my seat as the tortured creature on stage pleaded in madness for the redemption of sin. And theatre kicked me in the stomach and reminded me what it can do to people.
Earlier in the week, I happily stood in the drizzling rain at the Globe with my dear friend Hannah to watch The Tempest performed in Bangladeshi. I was moved by how Dhaka Theatre reinterpreted the text in their own traditions, their language, movement, and culture. It wasn’t just another, “Hey! let’s set Romeo and Juliet in the 1940’s and call it a re-imagining!” The play had morphed into something different, something more beautiful. I didn’t understand a word that was said but was transfixed the entire time. The Tempest is mystical – I now can’t imagine Ariel as someone other than a stunning Bangladeshi woman wrapped in bright cloth with her long dark hair swirling about the stage as she sang to Prospero.
I’ve been reminded this week as an audience member and as a project assistant on Epidemic with Old Vic New Voices that theatre, when done well, is about human beings and human stories – be it celebratory or even morose. I struggled with my course so much because theatre had lost its joy for me. I had to stretch my expectations and my own experiences and understanding. I’m still stretching. For the majority of my time in this course I felt like a tether ball, detached from its pole and just sort of rolling around. I think, finally, someone has tied back my rope and am gaining momentum, wrapping myself up around theatre. How’s that for a metaphor?
In any case, I’ve also been reminded how vital it is to step away from books and theory and to go out and see it. If I want the art of theatre back in my life, then I’ve got to immerse myself in it. Thankfully London is sort of the perfect place to do that. Oh, and one more thing, the show I’m working on sold out in 47 minutes. If that can’t spark some excitement, I don’t know what will. Stay tuned.