Saturday, May 28, 2011

"I find sometimes it's easy to be myself/Sometimes I find it's better to be somebody else."

The Song: "So Much to Say," Dave Matthews Band. Words & music by David J. Matthews, Peter Griesar, and Boyd Tinsley. Track 1 of Crash, 1996.
When/how acquired: Purchased CD, 1996.
Listen/watch here.

I was first on stage at the age of five, in an adaptation of Peter Pan by the Linden Knoll School. My twin sister and I played Lost Boys, and sang "I Won't Grow Up" and -- if memory serves -- "A Pirate's Life." We wore ugly olive-green shirts and shorts, and sported very short haircuts. It was the best time I had had in my life to that point. I liked the glamor of it, I liked the applause, but most of all I liked the pretending.

Theater is one of the oldest human art forms. I would argue that it is the most valuable. Of all the fine arts, theater is the one that teaches us empathy. It challenges us to imagine what it's like to be someone else, dealing with situations we'll never face in real life.

Those performance reality shows don't interest me -- not "American Idol," not "X Factor," not "The Voice," -- because that culture of stardom is diametrically opposed, even inimical, to what I value about live performance. Live performance, to me, is not about adulation of the individual. It's about exploring alternate realities with others in order to find new ways to connect. It's about diffusing oneself, not concentrating it, trying new selves on in an effort to make our real selves kinder and more insightful. The best theatrical productions are not star vehicles; they're ensembles in which the whole is greater than sum of its parts.

I think, I hope, The Importance of Being Earnest is that kind of ensemble. We're all having a great time up there. We make each other laugh and admire each other's work, and I think that shows. I'm so glad to have had that experience, and sad we only have five performances left. I'll miss it when it's over.

If you'd like to come see us, performances continue tonight, tomorrow, and next Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Call 207-626-3698 or visit Gaslight Theater's website for details.

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