Within the past week I went to Marroney Theatre, twice, to see an astonishing play called "Judevine." As I met the characters Doug and Grace, played by Ryan C. Hunter and T.C. O'Donnell, I was unequivocally impressed beyond explanation of my emotional rol ler-coaster ride. But not just because of Mr. Hunter's and Ms. O'Donnell's sensationally gifted abilities to convey their characters to the audience was I impressed, but more importantly, because of their abilities to convey emotion.
However, it wasn't just about these two characters. Watching "Judevine" and each character in his own spotlight was like watching a different phase of my life in a matter of two and a half hours. It was funny and painful, flowing and jagged, peaceful and full of hate as well as comprehension and a yearning to be understood. I knew every character, some better than others; some I wanted to forget, and I even caught myself looking away for a moment or two. With some I couldn't help but thinking, "Dammit if that isn't how I feel!" And perhaps that's the problem with people who go to the theater today (especially theater critics): they deny their own feelings.
Now I'm no theater critic, because I know I wouldn't be able to aesthetically describe stage productions or to talk about the technical aspects of a production, like the lighting for example. But I know what's important: how does this production make me f eel? What does it mirror in my life? Or elucidate? Does it answer any questions? Or perhaps raise new ones. I'm aware that with better direction and better performances, you'll be able to concentrate more on the conveying messages of the production than a bout being preoccupied with the obvious annoyances of bad acting. But, I might add, you wouldn't have had this problem with "Judevine" (I say "wouldn't" because it ended on Sunday).
I know very well that most people who go to the theater want to be entertained - this is America, the world capital of pleasure seekers and hedonistic zombies. From every show we demand laughter and violence and anything that doesn't require brain stimul ation beyond the usual "Whoa! That was cool." But I know there are a few of you out there who are not so easily misguided; that you appreciate the theater for how it makes you feel and think and react and how, maybe, just one character or just one line, if nothing else, will inspire, entreat, implore, and move you beyond your present situation in life; you will leave that theater ... changed. In addition, if you leave with just that, a change or a new perspective, then it was worth it. You know the exhil aration of learning something new. You know that you left that theater (or music hall, jazz club, poetry reading, etc.) knowing that you have made a progression: you've evolved, and that's what life is about - an uneven journey of perpetual change that i njects lessons over a course of time in order for one to evolve.
"Knowledge is power" isn't just a catchy little phrase, it bears a lot of truth. Whether you are to leave this earth as a farm hand or as a nuclear scientist, and you don't learn anything about life, yourself, or from the experiences that are encaptured w ithin it, then you've wasted your time and you've missed out on life (something you actually thought you were living). Therefore, I believe, art (in this case, the theater) is just one doorway in which we as human beings are able to receive a glimpse of w hat life sometimes presents and thus apply that knowledge to our own life.
I'm not suggesting that you can just go to any theater production and expect to be magically delivered to a land of complete comprehension for all that life has to offer. I highly doubt that anyone leaves a theater like that, but what I am saying is that you have to work at it. By that, I mean you need to be aware of your feelings, you need to ask questions, perhaps see the production again (at least the theater company would appreciate this), and talk about it with friends. If you leave a movie or a play or a concert and have nothing to say except, "that was good," then maybe you should think about seeing something else next time.
If I'm to make any suggestions about what to watch in the up-and-coming productions for the Arizona Repertory Theatre, it would be - everything, but especially the ones with Mr. Hunter and Ms. O'Donnell because with their ability you're able to forget tha t you're just watching and feel as if you're there with them. Thanks, for two very enjoyable evenings.
Daniel W. Martin is a creative writing and anthropology sophomore. His column appears every other Tuesday.