Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What is our call to service?

As per usual, my friend Dan has inspired me to think big thoughts.

He came to visit last weekend from San Francisco, to see New Leaf's production of Touch. When the company first read the play out loud, I tricked Dan into reading Kyle. He knew nothing of the play or the emotional journey of its protagonist, but because he is a sweet and trusting man he did what I asked, and I don't think he's quite forgiven me for asking. Part of me thinks he moved to San Francisco as my punishment. But suddenly, this weekend, there he was, back again. Poof! Like magic. Like intelligent, articulate, regular-guy-shaped magic.

I am intrigued by the idea Dan's exploring of kidnapping American theatre and setting it free. I think the idea of freedom rings true right now in a way it hasn't done for at least the last eight years - or a good chunk of my life as a self-aware adult-type person.

Today, on Day 2 of President Obama's (I just don't get tired of seeing those words together) administration, he released a remarkable statement in reference to the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade.

Now, apart from being articulate (as per usual), our President uses this issue as a way to talk about something more broad and more pervasive than just a woman's right to choose. He's talking about a woman's right - to everything. The freedom for women - the right for women - to everything made accessible to men in this country. It's not about saving us; it's about setting us free. It's not about handing us anything - it's about allowing us to come into what's ours.

And I think the same is true of the American theatre. Those of us at the relative beginnings of our journeys as artists and professionals are not so foolish as to want to dismiss our forebears and start all over again. The only way to continue to grow, to continue our relevance in an ever-changing culture, is to stand on the shoulders of the giants - and they are giants, pioneers, visionaries - who have come before us and keep reaching up, up, up.

But how do we do that? It's not just about setting American theatre free, it's also a matter of setting people who attend the American theatre free. And simultaneously re-imaginging who falls into that category. How do we build new audiences? How do we continue and grow our financial support? How do we make art that is honest and engaging that might allow us to build our audiences and increase our financial support without compromising our individual visions?

I think there are a lot of ways to do this - but none of them are easy. Just like fixing our country on the largest scale, it will take work. It will take time. It will take open minds and ready hearts. It will take trust, and faith, and grace. It will take each of us making a commitment to service in the ways that we are best able.

But what an electrifying time to be alive. What a challenge. What a gauntlet our President presents us with. Responsibility. Hard work. He challenges us to stand on the principles that once made our country great - and can help us make it great once again.

God bless him. And God grant us all the strength and courage to follow him.

No comments:

Post a Comment