The Belly of the Beast-Night #51

Night #51

(Yes, I realize it’s a big jump in time, took a while to get the first one published. Also, I dropped the “In,” don’t be offended.)

Well, here we are again. Sunday night.

A night, I have always thought of as a bit of a let down. There should be things, many exciting things, impromptu poetry readings, late night cabarets, drunken brawling discourse. I’m sure these things exist somewhere, and if you know where, for god’s sake, tell me and we’ll meet up, we’ll go do exciting things. But for now, I’m just smoking and drinking and writing to you, you dear, dear people.

This morning I went to the flea market. And it was great because we all want to be swindled, and we all want to be swindled together. This is the very essence of theatre, and it’s being hocked by gypsy women and drunk men in lawn chairs.

Truth, there is plentiful hipster cred to be had but beyond that, we constantly gravitate toward a collective experience, and, in the digital age, it sometimes becomes necessary to journey to the weird parts of town to find it. Everything good is strange, slightly dirty and incomprehensible, but most of all, honest. And when you’re relying on other people to help you tell a story, it doesn’t pay to lie.

I do this thing where I get drunk and talk about tribal society.

My fascination with the fact that everyone on the earth who came before post-industrial white people knew more than us, was originally spurred by thinking about the origins of theatre itself: A collective experience, borne out of ritual.

The earth is dry. We please the gods by sacrificing what would otherwise be food for a week, and afterwards, to distract ourselves from our profoundly empty stomachs, we sing, dance, and tell stories.

There was give and take. Performance of a well-known tale to which the crowd would cheer, jeer, or stop in harrowed silence. People did not attend out of obligation, they attended out of necessity.

I cannot think of one performance in my life that I attended out of necessity.

Last weekend, I went to the Actor’s Gang. Tim Robbins was actually sitting outside of the theatre, which I couldn’t quite get over, and made me laugh recollectively at inappropriate times during the performance. The play was good, not great, with momentary gems scattered through a largely self-conscious presentation. These gems had nothing to do with the plot, nothing to do with an individual character, and everything to do with an ensemble who, for a gleaming moment, decided to listen to one another, and act together.

That’s it. That’s the whole thing.

Without the support of the entire tribe, the sacrifice is meaningless. And we certainly don’t think of ourselves as a tribe nowadays.

We’ve pursued individualism to the extreme. To the point where sharing an interest, whether it be collecting small boats or that japanese underground punk band that released half a record before they all became monks, has become a liability. Where feeling camaraderie has never been more uncool. Where it’s easier and cheaper to share a post than a conversation, eat a poptart than a carrot.

But, hark.

We are not as cool as we seem.

Those parts of the play, the ones that really shone, were hilarious, often absurd, leaving one unable to describe quite what they were laughing at but leaving everyone with an extreme sense of satisfaction. It was in those bits that the actors invited not only each other but the entire audience into a joke, an aside, a pure moment of connectivity.

And it was glorious.

Theatre must be something that happens because of and is shared between both the performers and the audience.

Because we need each other.

And while I did not wind up buying those 1920′s inspired headbands this morning at the market, it was the passion and generosity with which the enigmatic gypsy woman shared them with me, that I will remember above all else.

Filed Under: Ponderings

About the Author: Jen Davis is a stranger in a strange land. Following a life of wandering and re-location(where am i? WHO AM I?) she made a decisive (drunken) decision to forsake all things holy and move to Southern California. She recently received her BA in Theatre while narrowly avoiding a minor in philosophy. Jen has staged plays, mimes, sword fights, and cakewalks throughout the Pacific Northwest, most recently as Associate Artistic Director of Toy Boat Theatre Company. She seeks to revitalize and re-establish the theatre as a necessary part of American life through producing, writing, and generally crying out to anyone who will listen. Her marketable skills include learning to juggle, baking, and persistence.

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  1. Joe laduca says:

    Go Jen!