Thoughts and Musings..
In the beginning … there was the cricket bat. I had never seen this particular symbol of British Imperialism in California before. Swinging in a leisurely pendulum from a pair of strong hands, it evoked images of elegant English gentlemen in immaculate white, crouching behind the wickets. The crack of the ball against the bat conjured up images from my own youth in South Africa – of over eager school boys emulating their heroes in seemingly endless innings – in the insular world of apartheid. But this bat was held by a young member of the 640th Aviation Support Battalion of the National Guard at the Armory in Long Beach. He had recently been given it as a gift by his translator when he served in Afghanistan. The bat suddenly seemed to me the perfect metaphor for the crazy quilt of our contemporary globalized experience. Isolation is impossible – our world has contracted and in a very real sense we are all intimately connected. This fusion of people and cultures has found perfect manifestation in Cal Rep’s new home.
The 2006/7 Season was tough. The loss of the Edison Theatre was a huge blow. We soldiered on – making do – adjusting - adapting and striving to continue to make art of quality and significance. There were days when I thought we would never be able to claw ourselves out of our slough of despond. But with our temporary home at the National Guard Armory – we have rededicated ourselves to revivifying the Edison – and we are once more back in the business of making thought-provoking, challenging theatre.
The National Guard has opened their home and their hearts and welcomed our rag- tag band. Our sojourn at the Armory is creating some interesting challenges and some evocative juxtapositions. Mingling with men and women in uniform has opened my eyes. Knowing that any one of them could be shipped off to the war zone personalizes our politics and prevents any slick or easy moralizing. As I think about our responsibility as artists and citizens facing the daily barrage of news from the front, I realize that I dare not offer any trite platitudes about the artist’s noble calling and civic duty. I cannot pretend that we have any answers.
Rather I trust that this season will ask questions. We are living in a constricted world in which idealism too easily degenerates into intolerance and fanaticism. Absolutes must be avoided – but compromising our ideals cannot be contemplated. How do we walk this fine line? In our theatre we attempt to live the ideal. Our tight collaboration and interdependence exemplify the best of our humanity. As artists we not only strive to create something of significance, we try to embody our ideals as we make our art. We do not always succeed – our creations may fail. We bicker and squabble. But our commitment remains unwavering. We strive to create an event in which actors, designers, playwrights and audience can share their hopes, dreams and aspirations. Fanaticism and dogmatism have no place in such an environment. Rather we seek to commune, to share. We trust that our plays will begin a dialogue – will start a conversation. This conversation has already begun as we reach out and share space with the National Guard. They face horrors we can only pretend to understand in our theatre. The conjoining of their world and ours reveals both the infinite range of theatrical truth and its limitations. We create art in order to shed light on the intractable problems of our contemporary life – they live a life we only imagine.