Escapism after the Beep

Escapism The tendency to seek, or the practice of seeking, distraction from what normally has to be endured.
1933 Encycl. Social Sci. IX. 533/1 The bibulous, aphrodisiac lyrics strummed out by Anacreon of Teos at the banquets of Polycrates, tyrant of Samos, are an example of escapism, comparable to the songs of Alcaeus and Sappho in strife ridden Mytilene. 1935 L. MACNEICE Poems 26 This escapism of yours is blasphemy. 1937 H. READ Art & Society 260 Many of the critics of abstract art..dismiss it as the most evident byzantinism, escapism, absolutism.1940 L. D. WEATHERHEAD This is Victory ix. 188 Religion that was mere escapism. 1946 J. CARY Moonlight 16 Was she, after all, an escapist? Amanda had a great contempt for escapism. 1954 Essays in Criticism IV. 50 He is not entering a plea for mere ‘escapism’ in literature.

Beat up cell phoneMy cell phone died on Thursday, after years and years of abuse. When I brought it into the store yesterday, the salesman noted that it had “been through many wars”; he was, however, able to salvage all my numbers and transfer them to my new Tundra (“Versatile and durable, the Motorola Tundra is built to military standards and designed to withstand the most strenuous conditions.”).

The loss of my cell phone for two days contributed to the stress of this week, but less so than you might expect. I don’t particularly like having a cell phone, and I definitely entertained the notion of using this as my excuse to cancel my plan altogether. But, obviously, I caved. A number of people have told me they have “iphone envy.” I watch the people I know with their iphones seemingly embedded into their palms, and I have iphone phobia. An invisible chain of electrons has shackled them; to what, I do not know, but something if not inherently evil then, at the very least, dangerous. They may never get lost again, but they will also never be able to escape.

I was thinking about escape this morning at church because I realized that this is actually why I go to church. I go to slow down. I go to find an hour’s worth of peace. I go not to think, but, as one of our ministers said this morning, to be. I have always resisted the notion of escapism (which comes up often in conversations about the purpose of theater)  because I assumed that it meant one was escaping from some variation of unhappiness. Because I am not unhappy, what have I to escape from? It is also nearly impossible for me to escape into theater because I am already in it. I cannot watch a play without thinking about how it is working, why it is working, why it isn’t working, etc. I can enjoy it, sure, and I can appreciate it, yes, but I don’t remember the last time I was swept away by it. I assume this is the sad reality of most professional artists: you sacrifice some key ignorance/innocence that is necessary for submersion.

Bow Down to the New CellWe have two shows right now that I wish very much I could lose myself in. Brief Encounter started previews on Friday, and it is truly spectacular. We just started a new 10UP program, selling seats in our second balcony for $10 for the first 10 performances. I sat up there with this new, wonderful, mixed group of patrons, so thankful that we have a theater that through some freak architectural phenomenon maintains intimacy even up high. Then last night I went to our second stage to watch our 3rd years in their first cabaret of the season, Sweet Charity, which had them dancing and singing and moving and acting in ways I’ve never seen them do before. They are both remarkable shows, interweaving song, dance, theatrical trickery, and solid acting in all the ways that make people love—and hopefully escape into—live theater.

The pianist this morning played something by Chopin, and I relaxed. It was only three minutes, but maybe that’s all you get some weeks.


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