We Who Watch and Listen: a celebration of my faith in the future of theater on World Theater Day

I have a problem with faith. Not religion. Not trust. Faith. Religion I can intellectualize as a reasonable response to the unknown. Trust I can rationalize as a response to a series that has continued a certain way and appears to, by all rules of velocity, have all intentions of continuing in that direction. But faith gets under my skin and makes me nervous, fearful, and endlessly envious. Faith dismisses the question “Why?” by beginning instead with infuriatingly paradoxical answer “Because.” Because it is. Because you do. Because that is why you have faith.

My DarkKnightDramaturgy blog began on September 8, 2008, with the question of why we as a society need theater, resolving that maybe we didn’t.

I think it is only fair to start this blog by being honest: I am not sold that theater will save humanity. I do not think theater is the social equivalent to Superman, or, if it is, then I agree with Mr. Luther in that I often think Superman is not all that super.

Theater has as much worth as we are willing to give it. It is language and spectacle. It is reality and fiction: the reality of people on stage in front of you performing a fiction which they are asking you to experience as reality (and fiction). Nothing more, but nothing less. It is like all art about communication, and in a world in which communication is going the way of code zipping around the airless Internet, I question if theater is the best way to communicate. The best way to connect.

This will not be the blog of a Believer. I am here to convince myself as much as anybody.

It is safest in the shadows. You can leave the party without anyone noticing if you spend the night on the periphery. People come to expect less of a commitment you. It’s easier. There is less likelihood of disappointment. But having no beliefs is exhausting. You are your own Atlas, weighed down by the constant globe of “Yes, but why?” Needlessly exhausting perhaps.

On this World Theater Day, I find myself convinced of the value of theater. Not because there was some moment of enlightenment. Not because I received the call. Not because I have analyzed the events of my life and see that they all point to theater being meaningful and that I am to have a life pursuing this art/craft/profession/lifestyle/philosophy. I find myself convinced because I am tired of waiting for that moment to occur, for that call to come, for that Gordian knot to unravel itself and declare itself solved. And I realize this morning that I don’t have to. I am wasting time waiting for permission to embrace what I have been flirting with for almost a decade. I have been a tourist who has been living in a hostel for nine years, afraid to sign a lease on an apartment.

In celebration of World Theater Day, I declare my commitment to a world of theater as one of the ones who watch and listen. We watch humanity in the world and on the stage. We listen our friends, colleagues, and collaborators create fictions and realities, and we are watched as we do the same.

This is what I can do this year. Next year . . . San Francisco deserves an event as kick ass as the one my people in Chicago are throwing tonight.


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