Sunday, September 21, 2014

All I Really Need to Know I Learned On Broadway

Ongoing unrest and racial tension in Ferguson, MO. Over two thousand reported deaths due to violence in Gaza. Ever-increasing hostility in Ukraine. ISIS acting a damn fool across the Middle East. Worldwide economic crises. Drug cartels. A major Ebola outbreak. Bees disappearing. Seal clubbing.

The world is a very scary place these days, filled with very scary people. The level of evil and cruelty humankind are capable of is simply staggering. Justifying themselves by acting in the name of God, love, money, justice, loyalty, and/or mental instability, people seem to ruthlessly manipulate, torture, steal, deceive, and destroy each other and lose very little sleep. It's enough to critically jade even the most optimistic among us. Humankind is indeed capable of a laundry list of atrocities. I believe, however, that that isn't necessarily how the world has to be; because people are also capable of great good.

I believe I owe a lot of my faith in humanity to my exposure to theatre. The theatre community consists of eclectic, eccentric individuals who routinely work together for a common goal. They combine their talents to create something special to share with others. They write and sing songs, dance, entertain, inspire thoughts and emotions, educate and expose us to foreign concepts, and, most importantly, tell stories to eager audiences. They take us to other places, other times; into other people's lives, and show us a world of variety to be embraced. They are an open-minded, sympathetic, inclusive group who live to create and give things to the world. Sure, they can be wildly catty, competitive divas, but they're sure not inciting riots or firing rockets in the streets.

I'm not going to name any names, but certain groups of people in the world are fueled by pure, unadulterated hate. They don't do anything constructive except when it results in f*cking someone else over. They don't build, they don't invent, they don't improve, they don't create, they don't make or write or question or cook or paint or read or explore or try new things. They just live their entire lives believing that they are right, the other billions of people on Earth are wrong and, therefore, do not deserve to exist. They take and abuse the lives of others because they feel that all life is not important or significant. They want to annihilate anything and everything in their path. Call me mean, but as a live-and-let-live person (except during football season), I truly have no respect or patience for this mentality because I find that if you're not going to contribute to the society that the rest of the world has made, you don't get to be part of that society. Theatre helped teach me this. If you don't pull your weight during rehearsals, you don't get to be part of the show on opening night (or worse, you don't get to go to the cast party). You are accountable because you are, in part, responsible for the collective production. If you develop a reputation for bringing the collective down, you won't be invited to come back and audition again.

I notice that the "creators" of the world are rarely fueled by hatred. People who have something they love to do that can be shared with others - be it theatre, art, dance, architecture, video game design, fashion, baking, butter sculpting, writing badly-written, best-selling erotic novels, beekeeping, etc. - don't have the time or energy for hate. They don't make space in their lives for such negativity because they'd rather make than destroy. I think this is what's missing in the lives of these extremists who do nothing but harm. They wouldn't be so inclined to destroy what others have built if they knew the pride and reward of building something themselves. They don't work collectively to make something for the world to see and admire. Nothing they invest in that is worth living for and preserving. But they really should try it. It's fun!

Of course, I'm not suggesting we all hold hands and sing "Kumbaya". But when I see the incredible, amazing, inspirational things people are capable of, I wonder why some people still feel the need to be so savage with each other. I may be naïve to believe in the intrinsic good in people. But in theatre (and any other artistic field), you have no choice but to trust that all the participants are going to pull their weight for the sake of the finished project. You learn to be a stand-up human being. You depend on others and they depend on you. Every individual in the cast, crew, and audience plays a part. Even if it's a flop, even if you're on stage for all of 30 seconds and have no lines, even if it's a 3-week run in a church basement, even if it's a theatrical production or a hippie commune or the next iPhone or a major city, establishing an aggregate of humans that runs on equal parts giving and receiving is special and, in my opinion, very much worth living for.