Monday, August 01, 2011

Theatre is a Social Activity

This is a newsletter piece I wrote for the Performing Arts Foundation of Luna County. For a while I've been serving as the foundation's president. We are working to establish a permanent venue for theatre, dance, film festivals, and whatever else the community wants to do. The theatre we hope to build will be named for Nacio Herb Brown, a famous songwriter who was born here in Deming.

Among my duties is writing a monthly piece for the foundation's newsletter. I'm convinced no one other than the Executive Director reads them. Even if that is true, writing them helps remind me of my direction and purpose.

Here is this month's piece. It's a bit terse, due to the newsletter's layout, but it speaks to a broader dimension of theatre practice that is important to me.


Theatre is a social activity.

It cannot be done alone. Even a solo performer requires feedback and assistance from others, if she is to be successful. There are people who toil away to make an evening of theatre possible, and often they are not even applauded. Someone has to turn on the lights. Someone has to take the tickets. Someone picks up the trash.

Even if you are simply a spectator, you are engaged in a social act. This is not Netflix streaming video. Whoever you think you are, you are sitting among other people and different people react to the same event in different ways. You may be offended by a joke I find hilarious. A decision a character makes in our play may make perfect sense to you, yet baffle me. This is true of our life as well.

For any of this to happen, people have to get along. It is such an elementary aspect we sometimes don't give it a thought, but all our social skills come into play when we do theatre. Cooperation. Taking turns. Teamwork. Keeping our commitment. Following through on what we say we will do. And so on.

The existence of live theatre is a microcosm of living in a healthy community.

The success of our mission, to establish a home for the performing arts in our county seat, requires us to be actively involved, to be fair to one another, and occasionally to abide by decisions we don't agree with, for the good of the cause. Of course we also have the choice to get mad, take our football and walk home -- this, too, is part of our community's history, and we know what it achieves.

Nacio Herb Brown's business was music. In music, we can hear the individual notes coming together to make beautiful harmonies. In theatre, you see people working together as an ensemble to make something that enriches all our lives. What a wonderful thing. Let's make some beautiful music together. What do you say?

[Photo: An old gas light in downtown Deming]

1 comment:

Kelly said...

Excellent piece, Algernon!

Our small town has an excellent Arts Center and you're right... it's a community affair.