It seems to me that things have been floating up from the past a lot lately. Or maybe they just always do – for me, for humans. Due to various circumstances, I find myself asking the questions of the subject line a lot. What will my life look like if only I can answer these questions from a pure place, a place that is not greedy or grasping or trying to prove anything? As it happens, the articulation of those two questions, in exactly the way they are formulated here, are not mine. They belong to one of the wonderful women who has entered, and shall remain forever, in my heart. They come from a tiny essay that she wrote in order to explain (as far as one may explain one’s art) a theater piece she created. This little piece somehow remains iconic to me; first of all, it expresses something of what it is to be human, I think. And then, it represents one of the first of her footprints on my heart.
So, first that. And then an excerpt from a Mary Oliver poem, of which I was reminded today by a brilliant, new Finnish acquaintance. How lucky I am to be able to ask the questions, and then have answers fall into my lap! It is, perhaps, an example of what a friend calls “listening and following.” Ok, with no further ado:
“For years, I’ve been walking around with a stack of index cards, each one representing a project I’d like to “one day” do. They range from full pieces or titles of works, to a person with whom I’d like to collaborate, to a single image that has stayed with me, to a particular topic of interest. I think a lot changed for me – and these index cards – with a series of coinciding events: September 11, 2001, and the whole of its aftermath. Turning 40 years old. The collapse of a long term project for which I cared deeply. Learning from the philosophy of William Saroyan when I directed The Time of Your Life.
I looked at the index cards and decided to no longer increase their number without doing anything about it. That’s part of how Theatrical Essays was born. I asked, “Why does every project have to take years and be perfect and full–length and cost a certain amount of money and energy to do? Whatever happened to lab work and experimentation, and is there a way for us as artists to return to creative play that is not bound by expectation? What form do we have that is the equivalent of a sketch or a model?”
And then there was the most important question of all that came up for me during this period – and one that seems to be floating increasingly manifest in the zeitgeist – “What matters to me and why? And how am I living that and standing by it? ” Theatrical Essays was born equally out of these questions. A quest to locate and work from passion over detachment. To define and sharpen a personal point of view – on subjects political, moral, spiritual – which for most of my life I’ve been too unconscious or lazy or embarrassed to do. And which, as an artist, I’ve often been taught is not appropriate.
But Sept. 11 happened, and I turned forty, and Mr. Saroyan demanded of me, ‘In the time of your life, live.'”
An excerpt from Mary Oliver’s “When Death Comes”
When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.