You walk into a party and the host takes your coat, slings a drink into your hand, introduces you to a few people – makes you feel comfortable, gets you prepared for what the night has in store. Theatrical experiences should be no different. You are already prepared to enter another story for the evening – best to ignite the senses the minute you walk in the door.
The best example I have seen lately was the interactive wonderworld before a performance of The Nether, a show dealing with the danger and imperceptibility of the digital realm and its communities, at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.
Upon arrival, guests were immediately invited to create their own “avatar,” the ideal virtual version of themselves that would represent them for the evening. There was a pinboard to select your favorite character from a variety of games and online communities. Large glass bowls were set out with titles such “I met someone that I only had ever spoken to online,” and “I have friends that I only know through the internet,” with a bowl of round markers in front that guests could drop into whichever corresponding questions matched their own truths.
Most notably, there was a wall hung with clothesline and a large stack of cards entitled “nobody knows I dream about.” Over the course of the evening, the wall quickly filled with secrets more often left unspoken.
Each game and activity eased you into the experience of The Nether which asked audiences to consider the ways in which we communicate now and notice how the digital world has swiftly become meshed with our own. It offered a stark warning for the future, and most importantly made us feel welcome as we prepared for an entirely new storytelling experience.
Laughter heals. Embarrassments, heartaches, confusion, or whatever else may ail you. A good laugh can help combat that ever-present need to take yourself too seriously. A healthy dose of humor will always come in handy.
Apologize. Not for being yourself, but if you actually make a mistake – big or small – take responsibility and make the first step towards salvaging the relationship. Don’t let the ego get in the way of the bigger picture. Your pride is not as important as the person you hurt.
When you have no control, let go. Nothing will drive you crazier than trying to fix what cannot be fixed. Realize that some things will remain unchanged. And then let it roll off your back. Focus on the aspects of life that are adjustable. There’s a freeing feeling that accompanies the realization that the world does not, in fact, revolve around you. And that’s okay. It’ll keep on spinning, and so will you.
From “The Invention of Love,” a play in which Stoppard focuses on Latin-scholar Housman’s life and his relationships with his peers and professors (including Pater, Wilde, and Ruskin).
He postulates on the catalysts for this crazy little thing we call love:
“They loved, and quarreled, and made up, and loved, and fought, and were true to each other and untrue. She made him the happiest man in the whole world and the most wretched, and after a few years she died, and then, when he was thirty, he died, too. But by that time Catullus had invented the love poem.”
A great deal of the play concerns itself with the importance of education – even outside of the typical confines of the university. This passage is easily one of my favorites:
“The Renaissance teaches us that the book of knowledge is not to be learned by rote but is to be written anew in the ecstasy of living each moment for the moment’s sake. Success in life is to maintain this ecstasy, to burn always with this hard gem-like flame. Failure is to form habits. To burn with a gem-like flame is to capture the awareness of each moment; and for that moment only. To form habits is to be absent from those moments. How may we always be present for them?—to garner not the fruits of experience but experience itself?”
This play was another one of my gifts from the holiday season. While not as famous as some of his other works (Arcadia, The Coast of Utopia, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead), I’ve found it to be immersive and quite moving. If you’re in the mood for an intellectual and imaginative journey with Mr. Stoppard, this one is a good bet.