“The Most Important Thing Is The Thing Most Easily Forgotten”
It may seem to be a cliché, but it’s people. People are the most important.
In the early stages of isolation and social distancing, people were either newly, constantly present in ways they haven’t been since infancy – children now living and schooling and playing in the house 24 – 7. My children are adults, yet somehow, they rely on me for food, laundry, advice, and even some entertainment. Or people were conspicuously absent – no co-workers, no neighbors, no exercise or drinking buddies – other than the odd pet.
I am an extrovert, and I get my energy from other people. I love to host. It’s a custom I learned from my mother. Whether it’s opening a show and welcoming the audiences into the theatre, or making a meal and having friends over for an evening, I love to throw parties.
Gathering and ritual are pillars of structure that shape my life. For years my schedule has been determined by the act of hosting: the preparation, the greeting, the conversations, the celebrations, the quiet afterward. Repeat the cycle in a week or a month or a season.
It’s not simply the presence of people, but what we learn from one another that’s most important. How we change as a result of someone else sharing a story, a lesson, a joke, a perspective, a dream. “You learn something new every day.” The more people I see in a day, the more I learn. Sometimes it’s a small lesson, like how to choose a cantaloupe. Sometimes it’s a big lesson, as the value of forgiveness. Sometimes, it’s simply the reminder that I am loved.
Right now, none of us are receiving the random positive reinforcement that comes from running into friends at the coffee shop, discovering a solution with colleagues, or hearing a compliment from someone who’s not related. We are without many of the usual coping mechanisms that might help us weather a major challenge or existential threat.
During a recent Zoom meeting with Board members, one of them mentioned that they had encouraged friends to watch B At Home. The friend reported back that the play The Actor’s Nightmare had sparked a conversation with their children regarding nightmares. I teared up. Then he teared up. On Zoom. We cried.
In a time when we are making theatre but cannot see our audiences, it’s difficult to know whether we are achieving our mission. What a joy to learn that an online reading of a play inspired a new conversation for a family in isolation across town! It was that day’s reminder of WHY.
Why do we tell stories? Why do we come together to do it? Why have human beings been doing this for centuries? Why do we make theatre? Why do we do it here?
Because we need one another. It’s the most important thing.