Oh so true, Mr Wilde…

Oscar Wilde in 1882.
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I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.
Oscar Wilde

What a great quote. Oscar captures the gravitational pull of what keeps a performer performing and keeps an audience, coming back and wanting more. It’s curiosity, it’s a search for affirmation of what it means to be human.
Not all forms of entertainment (theater, movies, live music etc.) affirm our humanity, Lord knows, but occasionally, just occasionally, an audience gets to see a work that subtly educates and opens mind as well as hearts. I recently went to Lynn Nottage’s latest offering, Ruined at the Intiman Theatre in Seattle. Our story begins and ends in a small town in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, where Mama Nandi runs a bar and brothel. With live music, a powerful story and down to earth characters the audience gets a glimpse of what happens to human beings when they are stressed by the realities of war.

I am sure I could Google and find lots of information about the effects of war on women and men in Democratic Republic of Congo, or grill the local reference librarian for books and articles about this tragedy; however books and search engines would give me the linguistic description of violence and rape only. Theatre, can tamely bring the eyes of one’s heart to the doorstep of any part of the world.

Needless to say, it was a heart stirring evening. My heart went to a place that I knew little about geographically or emotionally; and although it is no substitute for the real situation, I got a sketch of what another human being’s walk might be. I watched fellow audience members cry, gasp, hold their breath as they went through a roller coaster of emotions.

As an audience member, Ruined, reminded me why I perform. As an actor I get to explore my own humanity. I am forced to figure out what makes a character tick; which inevitably gives me clarity about what makes me (and other folks) tick. This character exploration makes my world…bigger. I re-learn in a very intimate way that everyone for good or bad does not see the world as I do and I am forced with that knowledge to see how small and dependent, I actually am. If I am doing my job right, I get to make an impact. Being part of an audience absorbed in this “play” about a place more than 8500 miles away made me grateful for my profession. To be part of that sort of power is a marvelous thing.
Sometimes, when I tell people that one of the things that I do is act, they nod and smile in anticipation, hoping that I will stop being so damn dramatic and tell them what I really do. Next time when someone asks me what I do, I’ll say that I am a cardiologist. “Oh I specialize in treating and preventing diseases of the heart. What kind of diseases you ask? oh you know.. hardening of the heart..things like that it’s a serious problem.
Yeah, it really is and that is what I am grateful to have the opportunity to do.

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