Temporal and Eternal Questions

The joke I use on first day of design class is: “I’ve never met-a-four I didn’t like.” It always bombed but that was intentional on my part. Students don’t often get metaphor. They can recite the definition, but something about the world of metaphors is elusive. My Theatrical Design class was about creating visual metaphors. If they don’t get and understand that message first then the rest of the semester was going to be tough.

In theatre we start with the play. We read and discuss it. We notice the subtle rhythms of the playwright. We analyze and research the time and place and society and history surrounding its origin. We process that information together as a group of collaborators. We discuss and decide how our interpretation of the play will exist on stage. Each designer presents their understanding of the group’s interpretation with sketches and research. Over time, a clear path forward is achieved and that is what ends up on stage. The scenery presents a visual metaphor of the theme we have chosen. The costumes reflect the significance of each character in reference to the theme. Each element on stage is designed to tell the story according to our interpretation.

In theatre we start with the play; in life we wonder. What questions are astir in our time and place that require a metaphor to make them clear? What story can we tell? What questions of significance require thought and consideration? What truths can be laid bare to incite solutions to the mysteries plaguing existence in this time and circumstance? Do we tell a story of the man that dominates headlines and may lead to the demise of civility and governance? Do we tell the immigrant’s story to motivate sympathy and compassion? Do we tell the injustice of life as a farmer in the cold hard North working 12 hours a day, who can’t comprehend the daily news about the sexuality they find confusing or the scary dark skinned folks in the big city? There are so many stories and so little time.angels

A genius like Tony Kushner only comes along infrequently. He appeared on the scene at just the right time to make sense of the 1980’s. He wrote the world’s first universal play, Angels in America. One play in two parts that touched upon a vast array of contemporary and eternal topics and concerns. He made the transition from analog to digital (metaphorically not electronically) for live theatre. He didn’t just address one family in a house dealing with its problems in analog form. He took multiple stories from across the globe and heavens and generations and religions and bound them coherently in one masterpiece of theatre art. He showed the matrix of the world’s concerns in one two-part play. We need that infrequent visit from a visionary to happen again, now! It has been a while since the ’80’s and we’re due.

What art form will become the vehicle for this savior? I don’t know, but I hope they come in the form of a digital Banksy, the British graffiti artist and social activist. The savior will be as sophisticated as Obama in politics, as insightful and poignant an intellect as Kushner, as omnipresent as Anonymous, and as peaceful as Gandhi.

A single graphic image will not suffice. A series of clever, coordinated, occurrences will have to present themselves frequently, startlingly and with the goal of befuddling the lying deceivers now housed within the White House. We’ll out-baffle the baffler. We’ll do it the way Bugs Bunny did it to Elmer Fudd. The joke will be on the  joker, not the masses. It will make him angry, which is the key to his undoing. Trump is a one trick pony – the artful lie, yet we contain the tricks of millions of tricksters. His wit doesn’t exceed his grade-school vocabulary, yet ours is the wit of the many. This will be the improvisation of a lifetime.

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