Thursday, September 6, 2007

Does what we do matter?

Seems to me we in these latter daze of theater, we often speak disparagingly of our own field. Perhaps "disparaging" is too strong -- let's say we're meekly self-deprecating. "It's not rocket science," someone will say, or "it's only theater," indicating that drama queens should calm the hell down because it's not important. "We're not solving world hunger here," etcetcetc.

But it does matter -- content matters, sure, but so does the act of writing and the fact that we as human beings wish to express ourselves in this way. It doesn't just affect the reader or the audience; it changes us most of all.

Anyhow. Perusing the website of legendary Powell's Bookstore today, I was poring over an essay by David Bornstein in which he writes about writing in just this way. Hired to coach disadvantaged students on how to describe themselves on college application forms, the job gradually morphed from a chore to an epiphany as he witnessed the act of writing reveal the students to themselves.

Actually Mr. B's essay describes the experience as a bellwether for the way we can make a difference in the world, so ultimately it's not "about" writing, but rather about our power to effect change. Nevertheless, it was ratifying for this struggling scribbler.


Anonymous said...

That is interesting, I must say. It seems that painters, environmentalists, musicians, educators, politicians and I can't remember who else, think the same thing about mattering. Not that any of you are wrong. I just don't know what does really matter. I suspect it is an earthquake or a bomb.

Mead said...

I remember Peter Sellars saying once, "Only rocket scientists really do have to know what they're doing. The rest of us do the best we can." That wish to do your best and to make a difference to someone while doing it informs the lives of anyone who seeks to communicate, I think. Partly it's compensatory, partly it's the hope of getting a *ping* back from someone out there....

Anonymous said...

"Content matters."

Well said.

Anonymous said...

When it comes to what matters, it's not something like rocket science or any advancement like that. Because what does something like that matter when we're all just going to die in the end?

So it seems to me that we are left with two things that could really matter:

1) religion that determines your eternity, if you believe that sort of thing

2) reducing suffering and making the time here and now at least somewhat enjoyable

Seems to me theatre fits nicely in both of those two things and, therefore, matters quite a bit.