Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Cue for Passion

A colleague of mine was arrested today for attempting to expose strangers in a public place to the art of theatre. It was quite an event. My group all knew there was the possibility of it happening, but I don't think any of us ever actually thought it would. And as rebellious as I feel against the conventions and implementations of contemporary theatre, (I've wanted to be a part of something like this for a while now.) I find myself more conflicted than I anticipated.

In one perspective, I say more power to my colleague. I'm thoroughly convinced that we live in a society whose ability to experience its world and surroundings is ever receding. We live not as solidly in the actual, tangible world but more in the virtual one created by iPods, smart phones, and e-readers. And while I'm undoubtedly supportive of technological progression (I mean, I am saying all this on my blog.), I feel these advances should serve to accentuate our experience the world, not substitute them. So if my colleague's efforts and subsequent arrest today prompted the surrounding witnesses to notice and observe a real, touchable, smellable, taste-able happening and have a genuine response to it, mission accomplished.

However, I must consider the fact that my colleague was in fact infringing on the personal privacies of everyone within sight and earshot of his efforts. No one out there today chose to be a witness to a person performing for them. I imagine some were sitting outside to temporarily escape the stress of their crappy jobs, to converse with a friend or loved one in seclusion, or simply to enjoy the wonderful weather we had today. They never bargained to have someone speak a monologue to them while handing them a flyer about an upcoming theatrical production. And the responses were as varied as the audience; some simply tuned it out, others seemed quite amused or entertained, and some were visibly annoyed.

Perhaps effective rebellion requires a more balanced approach. Consider the latest political upheaval in Egypt. Those people participated in a rebellion that has inspired the entire world. I think a big part of that inspiration stems from the lack of violence and force exhibited by not only the protesters, but the Egyptian army as well. It proved to the world that force may not be the most valuable ingredient in true rebellion, but rather belief and conviction that wins the day. A message need not only be heard, but the ones who hear it need to be impacted in such a way that evokes engaged response, not simply begrudged acknowledgement (see Wisconsin governor Scott Walker). It's at that point when rebellion blossoms into revolution.

I'm reminded of a song by Amel Larrieux called "Infinite Possibilities" off of her 2000 album of the same title. When I first heard it as a 20 year old having my first tastes of political and social awareness, this track fit me like an old shoe. In the first verse, Amel sings:

All of life has just begun
Got a temper like a gun
Pointing it at everyone
That's his game
And it helps him to get through the day
When a voice inside him says
"How much longer can I play?"

What does it take to bridge the expanse between rebel and revolutionary?


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