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Nation in crisis

"I stand before you, no more than a girl.

... And you will follow me.
Each knowing I was nothing, as all,

however mighty, are as nothing.
But one as small as me who with an open heart

sees evil and cries "No. This must not be!"

can make it so.
For all God needs to battle evil
is one who loves enough to feel his power
and stand up unafraid.
"To know God's earthly sign to you,

each place your hand upon your chest with me.
Feel your heart pound against your honest palm?
Now look to the man beside you.

His is beating too.  And so is mine.
And all belong to that same leap of joy

– the quick'ning babe inside the mother's beat.
And so we all can join!  And when we do,

we will together beat as God's own heart.
And against this siege can ever stand!!"

--from Act I, Me & Joan, ks
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Creating together

Some chemical bond happens when individuals create together: and yes, we call it trust and knowing each other - both of which it is - but some 'platform' is also laid down that allows your work together to keep growing, getting richer. There’s no objective measure.  It's mysterious. It’s organic.  And unfathomable.

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When I sang the nation's soul
I once felt out of place
but now I know I was made for this
for now we must remember
who we are

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To see so clearly the human truth
and yet be unable to stop the pain
is to weep forever
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"We travel together..."

"We travel together, passengers on a little space ship, dependent on its vulnerable reserves of air and soil; all committed for our safety to its security and peace; preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work, and, I will say, the love we give our fragile craft. We cannot maintain it half fortunate, half miserable, half confident, half despairing,half slave—to the ancient enemies of man—half free in a liberation of resources undreamed of until this day. No craft, no crew can travel safely with such vast contradictions. On their resolution depends the survival of us all."  Adlai Stevenson (to the UN) - 1965

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The more stubbornly a conflict resists resolution, the greater the need for artists to illuminate its key...
...which can only be found where we lost it: in the human heart

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THE DARK TIME - Hurricane Sandy

Funny thing was, when we finally had TV again and began to watch a perfectly respectable historical documentary Tom had recorded sometime, he asked me how I liked it, and I said - you know. at first, watching this made me feel resentful. Why? Because I was suddenly so stunningly aware of how film-tv-computer visuals (none of which we'd had for five days) usurp one's life - just suck up every faculty and leave us lumps - rapt, inert, dull - like sponges with no capacity for any output. Is that extreme of me? No doubt.
But being without all the things we didn't have - having at every turn to ask myself what I could do next - how to be comfortable, content, clean, warm, fed, able to accomplish something, stimulated - under the limits of dark during the majority of hours, no heat, no electricity, no hot water, no elevator, no phone, no internet, no cell phone, no transport (and not in the mood to carry bikes down pitch black four winding flights) - All this made me hyper aware of being alive -of managing somehow to make arrangements for all those things we so automatically have and expect will be there at our disposal - how to compensate, how to re-create - what we could improvise...and the bone deep joy of simple music, the making of music, of singing, of dancing, of reading, of each other, of getting out into the air, of getting around in pitch black streets - no street lights, no traffic lights, everything shut up, dark, dead silence in the narrows of the city, and then of sleeping deep, and of waking when light comes, of solitude - with no obligations -except to

Now we are relieved, comfortable. recovering, but maybe perhaps, not quite so alive.

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Sometimes plays get printed.
Sometimes printed plays even get read.
But they are truly nothing more or less than blueprints.

This play is coming to life for the first time now, growing -whether they are awake or asleep at this early morning hour- in the spirits of the young actors who will perform it a few days from now.

Their discovery (and mine) each day at rehearsal is amazing, exhilarating, painful, hilarious.

But only then - when the audience enters - will the play be finally born. Then, the circle closes; then they'll know how it feels; then I'll know what it is I began when I wrote the first line.

(Springtime, Salina, 1988 - 1st directing my own play)

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It is the pain we pass
as we live
that opens our veins
for deep humanity

It can render us wise
and humble enough
to finally meet
the God within us

(written years ago, KS)

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The Audience and Me

“Our audience doesn’t know you.
Write something for them.”
Audience, I think. Who are they?
The ones I live for.

When I’m an actor
the answer is simpler.
It’s the audience I feel out there
on the other side of the curtain
while I’m waiting in the wings
breathing myself into character
whichever character I’m going to be
for the audience.

They’re out there
rustling into their places
living the lives they’re living
until I’m in my place
coming alive with someone
they’ll be stopping the lives they’re living
to watch, to be with
to want and grow and laugh and cry with
to live and maybe even die with
for a moment.

I hear them out there
and I don’t, of course.
because I’m pouring myself into the soul
they’re going to see.
And a peculiarity of that soul
the one created on a stage
is that it always hears those others out there
in their places, even hears them breathing
as well as laughing and shifting and coughing
and thinking, and sleeping.
And sobbing, and listening.
I can feel when they’re listening.

Funny. An actor’s always being told
“You’re not listening”
meaning you’re not really listening
to the other character in a scene.
And what is the clear sign of listening?
Nothing. Absolute stillness.
Stillness so deep the blood
begins to respond - to hear and to act -
while the body, the will, does nothing
nothing on its own, nothing planned
nothing but listen.

And the soul on stage listens
to the others out there
because although this soul must be
as deep and freely into itself as my skill
and this night’s inspiration allows,
its reason for living is only to share itself
with the audience.

And life created between the actor
and the others who’ve stopped their lives
to come and partake of the stream
the energy flowing from stage to the “house”
and back - giving back - this life
is created by those present
created together.
It cannot exist, come to life
without all its creators.

So when you hear me say “I need the audience”
the possible meanings of that statement–
“without selling tickets, I can’t live”
or “I can’t live without performing”–
are not what I mean to say.
What I mean to say is
my work can only be completed by you.

Now I no longer listen from behind the curtain.
When I did, I could quiet my fears by saying
“I believe in this play.
As an actor, I am its conduit.
I carry the play between its author
and its audience – I deliver it.
And the wish I have to serve them both
will carry me beyond this nervousness
through, to the best work I can do.”
Something like that, I’d say to myself.

But I’ve moved.
I sit now with you, the audience.
I try to hear what you hear
the way you hear it
try to hear whether
I’ve begun anything that speaks to you
anything that justifies your gathering
together with these actors in this moment
to finish the creation.

And I not only need the audience
I love the audience
unconsciously, inevitably, like loving a child.
Because the audience, like the child, is all of us–
open, waiting for life, never wrong
If you think you are not like a child, never mind–
it’s my job to make you so.
And when I’ve done it well
and the actors deliver it well
and you’ve come to complete the circuit
the life created in the air between us
will sing

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