Tonight, I went to see a show called The Venetian Twins. 'Twas an old Italian comedy. Yes; that means Commedia dell'arte. It was probably the best Commedia show I'd ever seen (granted, I've only seen 3). Directed by Jon Ferguson of Theatre Forever and performed by some top-notch clowns in the Twin Cities area, this trouble made me laugh harder and longer than I have in a while. The evening brought new breath to my life... But why?
The show in itself was simple, as all Commedia is. Two men, one a sleeze-ball and the other a gentleman, but both brothers played by the same actor, happen to come to the same town to wed two separate girls and end up getting mixed up for each other; chaos ensues, cue vulgarity, physicality, literal and/or sexual interpretations of everything, and also turnips. Very well performed, brilliant connections to the audience, high energy, impressive physical feats, and spot-on comedic timing; bits, gags, and all. My theatre degree was sobbing with knowledge and joy. Woohoo.
I "ushed" the show, and thus was thrust a free ticket, and an offer to go out to eat with the cast afterwards. My thoughts upon this moment:
1) OMGOMGOMGOMGOMG FUUUUUUUN.
2) nnnyooo i dont belong therrrr
3) I am too tired for anything. I never do stuff. It's not me.
4) ALL THE MORE REASON TO DO IT.
So I did. And I ordered pork nachos. I also didn't talk for a while.
I sat in the corner of the exterior tables, not adjacent to any member of the people I knew. I was existing alongside a talented group of invigorated artists, sucking off their "opening night" energy, and I was just sitting there. I struck up a few conversations but was not able to prove my belonging, nor move past how vastly uncomfortable I felt. Asking questions about their lives or sharing my own seemed fruitless and false. Within a few minutes, each conversation was sent back to me with "return to sender" stamped on the front in red, which I read as "I don't want you."
I continued to sit.
I ate my nachos.
I spilled my nachos.
Eventually, I made eye contact with another fellow across the way whom I had met, and he included me in his conversation with a man I hadn't met. I leaned forward to join them, greeted the stranger, and was instantly tested for my creative reflexes with, verbatim, "No, you should turn around and cry."
So I did. Literally. And he was shocked, and the awkward interaction proceeded into further awkward.
Why did I do it? I don't know. Because I'm eager to please and I just wanted a connection, so I did the first thing that popped into my head.
After that moment, we continued to talk and exchange pleasantries. I told him what I've been working on, and the man mocked my endeavors, which I accidentally encouraged. Then I asked why he kept having emotionally charged facial responses to me. He told me I shouldn't do worthless theater because I'm above it. He questioned why I smiled while he spoke. He said that everything I said to him thus far was boring and fake. He said a lot of swear words, and then he said you just need to listen and be sensitive. Then he told me he learned amazing things from Philippe Gaulier, the master clown in France, and that I should study there if I want something deeper and better from clown and theater and to get out of Minneapolis. Then he drank a 3rd (or maybe 4th?) beer.
Then, I thanked him, thanked the others, and said goodbye.
I drove home.
At first, I thought: "Wow. That guy was a total douche canoe. He was born and raised in the poop rivers of Venice." I was offended that he had called my experience in Children's Theatre and Fringe worthless. My mind's eye looked back at his pretentious face and replayed the scene with new lines:
But that didn't happen.
As I reflect on it, I also see that Mr. DC was not being malicious; he was being honest with his opinion. He was blunt. He looked me right in the eye and breathed foul breath into my soul. He said things I didn't want to hear. He got me out of my head and into the space between our eyes where I could feel the damp air, see the orange street lamp reflecting in his pupil, hear the cars, the bustle, the waiter, the laughter, the music, the language, and even smell the pork nachos on my own breath. So of course I could not speak. I was more alive with this man whose presence was strong.
I was not hurt by this beanie-wearing sith lord. I thought that I would be, or even that I should be (never "should" anything; that's even more dangerous). The only hurt I feel now is the shadow of the hurt that I almost applied to myself through shame, self-loathing, sadness, and fear. That is, until I said, "No. I am at least an OK person."
Which is a surprisingly compelling argument.
Now, as I sit typing this blog, I'm not upset, I'm not even negative. The words seem more and more meaningless because they're merely thoughts on a page that could mean anything were it not for the symbolic constructs we have placed upon them. I am merely vapor in a multiverse of other vapors: a blink of existence.
My senses, my memories, my feelings, my thoughts are still realized and somehow meaningful, by a force that I have come to recognize as God. The interactions I have with other people, when our eyes meet and our molecules collide, are like the light above me in a dark and lonely room. The breath I breathe feels like a wave of freshwater erupting out of a hot spring and enriching the atmosphere of my body with refreshing life. The sights and sounds of the earth are each beautiful things, made out of vapor and dust.
How can I be hurt when Darth Douche-Canoe gave me these new thoughts?
I have lived most of my life to please others. Do what your parents say, do what your teachers say, do what your mentors and your pastor says, and you will be good. If there's a problem, fix it if you have to, but make sure everyone always has something to gain. Understand other people's motives and know that there are not evil people, only evil deeds. Don't be mean, don't be rude, don't be in anyone else's way. Serve others and stay out of sight and out of mind. Don't have opinions, beliefs, thoughts, comments, feelings, or actions that could offend or cause pain or trouble. Do good.
Alright, Mr. No-Calorie-Sweetener, that's pretty much dumb.
Darth Douche-Canoe did not live that way, and he did not want me, Mr. No-Calorie-Sweetener, to live this way. Thanks to this experience, I now recognize that I have grown sick of not doing or knowing what I want. The lesson is: say what you want. Be honest. Be willing to say the truth, even if it hurts. Be willing to act upon truth, even if it hurts.
This is new ground for me, so I want to remember: There is no path cut out for me for who we are. We need to cut our own path every day. In the end, I wanted to write this feeling down before I forget it. I wanted to act, not talk. I wanted to remember and to act, with a simple reminder of how to defeat the sith lords in our lives:
Be glad and confident,
Actor, Director, Creator, Dork