Friday, December 6, 2013

A Fly on The Wall, December 6, 2013

Rage in the Mirror
by Jim Murchison 

It's a funny thing the way people express themselves. When you're pushed you can react quite irrationally. I was watching a man chase a bus down the street the other day in the middle of the street, pounding on the side of the bus and screaming, “I’m gonna fuck you up! I’m really gonna fuck you up!”

My friend and I were watching and almost simultaneously said, “Good thing that bus was faster than him. Yeah, he really would have fucked it up.” Now I don’t know if the bus driver had said something to him and he was angry or if he was trying to make an important appointment and had just missed the bus or if he had been forced to leave the bus by some authority on the scene. It doesn’t matter what pushed him to do that it was pretty interesting theatre.

Often when someone witnesses something like this, they’ll comment on how it was like a scene in a movie or a play as if theatre came first and then real life decided to imitate it. Although it is true that more and more people are getting their 15 minutes of fame that Andy Warhol predicted and Marshall McLuhan’s observation that the medium is the message appears to be absolutely incontrovertible, we have to remember that there is a symbiosis involved. We are still the egg and the chicken.  We do not have to guess which came first.   

We create theatre based on what we have experienced and what we think is important. We may want to change the world or affect more people to our point of view, but art is most effective when it is honest in expressing some truth about humanity and what we are or what we can hope to be. The most effective a play can be is when the audience watching it recognizes the people they are seeing.

Audiences leave a play ho hum or irritated frequently when they feel like they are hit over the head by an idea, but don’t connect to the characters or the story. Many a great idea has likely been diminished or killed by a director, an actor or a writer falling in love with an idea to the point that a character becomes a cardboard or a play becomes a sermon.

I have seen that unrestrained anger of that man chasing the bus in scenes in plays; the moments that make you gasp or guffaw. I have also seen the cold calculated brutality of a soft spoken person torturing someone physically or by a whisper of suggestion on the stage. These are the scenes that can actually make you shudder or sweat and haunt you afterwards.

As great as these moments are, as different as we may look at them or how we ponder them after, they only struck hard because we recognized something that we had glimpsed in ourselves or someone else before. As The Charlebois Post states, “We are theatre!”

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