Fleeting and Forever
by Jane Deluzio
I am currently reading Margaret Atwood’s novel, HAG-SEED. The protagonist is going through security at the prison where he does Shakespearean theatre with the inmates to improve their literacy. The guards do not see him as much of a threat. “It’s the words that should concern you, he thinks at them. That’s the real danger. Words don’t show up on scanners.” p. 75
We are told by historians that theatre and the media are censored by totalitarian leaders building regimes. These days, I lose myself in fearful thoughts about the current state of global affairs and planetary survival. The unbelievable words of Donald Trump and his supporters light up my personal security scanners each and every time I hear them or read them. My bias is evident.
Inherent biases are everywhere. Hierarchical thinking prevails. Science, Math and Technology are important subjects for study but the Arts are not essential in schools. The Arts are not essential at all. Well, maybe for entertainment. Unreflective group think predominates even within the arts. Theatre has never really had the same respect and prestige as Music and the Visual Arts. We are able to see the paintings, sculptures, drawings and carvings created from the dawn of time. There is a permanence to these works of art. Live performance is forever unavailable beyond the memories of those of us who witnessed it.
Some written scripts do become great classical plays, revered for study and often performed. We attend to hear these words spoken aloud once again as a well-known story is retold and re-lived. But, in fact, each performance is unique. Impermanent.
Plays may be reshaped into film using the best that this very permanent relatively new art form has to offer. And, just as musical performances often live on in a recording, live theatre may be filmed. My family has Cineplex tickets to watch a live broadcast of Tom Stoppard’s play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. We will watch along with the audience sitting in the Old Vic Theatre in London, England. Another Toronto audience will watch with this same audience two days later. Layers of witnessing.
A colleague of mine from the Czech Republic performed in plays during a period of great censorship. She told me that those in charge of controlling the truth relied on the written words and did not see the subtext or understand the underlying meaning in the metaphors and symbols. Theatre was a subversive act and a dangerous one for both performers and audience during this time. But it was in the watching, not in the reading, that resistance was unleashed.
In Toronto, brave productions are taking place in small theatres, alternative spaces and even in schools, wherever words matter and truth is spoken. Perhaps these performances are the theatre that risks being shut down or never produced because someone does not want certain ideas to be shared. We need to be in their audiences.
I am drawn to live theatre as a life addiction. I feel my heart beat with a silent thrill of excitement as the lights dim. I sit momentarily in the dark preparing to be forever changed. My 60 plus years are filled with a life time of images and emotions visible only to me. They cannot be shared in an art gallery or by an orchestra. But the voices of so many people continue to echo and resound within me.
The joy and beauty of theatre is being in those moments with the artists. We are together in time and space and imagination and feeling. It is fleeting and it is forever.