Interesting evening going to the Guthrie Theater here in Minneapolis - which is one of the first big regional theaters in the U.S. I'm pretty sure. After the sinking feeling I usually get walking into a monolithic Arts Institution, which generally makes me feel like I've walked into a giant over-design concrete tomb where theater goes to die, trying to shake it off while looking at the view from the 'Endless Bridge' (in fact, the small terrace overlooking some large bridges over the Mississippi in Minneapolis), and enjoying the view, which is kind of renovated old industrial chic - think Portland, Oregon but more northern...we stood in line for rush tickets to see 'The Gods of Carnage' by Yesmina Reza (author also of 'Art').
My sinking feeling grew deeper when seeing an overly friendly hippish looking woman bouncing from couple to couple asking them marketing questions, like "so why do you go to live theater?" and "what do you like about this area?" and I thought, great, now we're going to make theater like so many shampoo bottles, designed by market research. I shared this dark view with James, my cousin's husband, who said he could understand.
I was explaining to him that seeing theater for me is usually as fun as being an emergency room doctor having to watch other emergency room doctors work, except I can't do anything to help. James understood this from his musician's perspective, so we stood in line thinking of ways we could avoid the young marketing research lady - who fortunately never reached us.
Then we got our tickets and went into the theater, which was quite beautiful, and we had good seats. We diagnosed the crowd as PBS demographic (Brits: BBC Radio 4) and I had that other sinking feeling of yeah and us too. We are So Old (we're not - we are 46 and 48 respectively but still...).
Then the play began, and while I have a huge prejudice against 4th-wall theater (theater wherein the actors act as if the audience is not present and there is an invisible 4th-wall - I explain this because I realized from my cousin Darcy asking what I meant by this that of course someone who does not study theater would not know what the hell that means, so apologies to those of you who are theater people - no, I am not talking down to you...just trying to make this accessible - a new, weird goal of mine, that I'm not entirely sure what to do with/about/for, etc...), I did laugh from the start. The play is about two couples who's sons have had a playground fight and they are trying to resolve the dispute 'amicably.' From the beginning, it's obvious there is a thin veneer over lots of simmering resentments within each marriage, then between the couples, then between the men and women and so on and so on. It devolves into tightly controlled mayhem (controlled by the script and the precision direction and acting). So, in spite of myself, I enjoyed the dark humor and definitely two of the actors, and the directing was solid, too.
However, as with so many 'straight' plays (my word for plays with scripts, characters and narratives), at the end I felt something missing. In this case, that had to do with the deep cynicism of the piece, whose basic message is: beneath the surface people are vile (which the playwright says in an interview quoted in the program), and also the sense of: well, yes, there they are on stage and here I am in the audience, so I can watch and laugh and feel somewhat smug and superior or perhaps somewhat indicted, but then, like, so what? And this is after a very good, very well-written play. I would recommend it to anyone who likes theater. But I still feel this emptiness.
And then I get stuck because I wonder: should I even keep calling what I do theater? Is this play I just saw simply what theater wants to be and what people want theater to be so should I just give up and call what I do art or performance art or whatever and be done with it, throw in the proverbial towel or fight, fight, fight.
This is also a big question in terms of whether I should return to the U.S. again or not, because let's face it, the U.S. is a mess right now. So, do I keep it at arm's length as an expat or do I come back and fight, fight, fight? Because if I do come back, I certainly can't just hide my head in the sand and pretend I don't see the barbarity that is everywhere.
And the fight versus the acceptance, is an interesting one, because I don't think acceptance has to mean resignation, it can mean accepting that a situation is unacceptable and trying to change it.
I was in a room listening to and speaking with a number of women today who are going through divorces and separations and not knowing about jobs, etc., and I realized how common my current dilemma/s are. This had the effect of being quite comforting. I also heard someone say that spirituality was a process of knowing less and less. I agree because I feel that very deeply now, and it is a beautiful thing.
Because this means if I don't 'know' then I don't preconceive and if I don't preconceive then I don't have to limit my options and choices. The downside of my life right now is I don't know anything of what the future holds, and the upside of my life today is that I don't know anything of what the future holds. Amazing freedom, actually.
I am still mulling many options and won't write them down here yet for a number of reasons, the main one being I want to allow the mulling process to continue and when I write things down they become concrete in some way. I am allowing myself to listen from the inside, as I said in my first post.
And that continues...
I am not sure if I wrote this before or not, so if I did, apologies - but I since this past January when I went to China and when taking off said, as I usually do in those moments, 'I'm in Your hands,' ('Your' meaning all that I cannot name that is both greater than me and within me simultaneously) ...I realized, oh duh, that's true All The Time, not just when I'm in a plane.
That sense has been with me since then and in fact I say it every day after my daily meditation practice. Probably if I was writing this in the UK I would hesitate to write this in fear of being labelled a 'nutter' but I'm in the US right now, so you get this stuff too.
So, to conclude this post - while I know the gods of carnage exist, I also believe in the gods of light. I believe to just focus on one or the other is limiting. In China, behind the big Buddhas in the temple, is some Dude (whose name obviously escapes me) behind him with a sword. Interesting, I think. The Buddha smiles and is serene, but someone's got his back.
Fading out now rapidly so will post on this suitably ambiguous note....oh, but one last thing, on the door to the Guthrie it says (and by law must say) that no guns are allowed on the premises - this is true of all public spaces that don't want guns in their buildings. This has something to do with concealed weapons basically being allowed anywhere it doesn't say they aren't. Dear God/Goddess/Whoever (preferably not of carnage)....help us all...
Welcome to my blog..
"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty
When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.
I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.
As of September 2013 I started teaching writing (composition and rhetoric) as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. So blessed for the opportunity and hope to find a more permanent job doing same.
I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May 2014 and completed it at two residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Wisdom House in summer 2015. I have done some revisions and am shopping it around to agents and publishers now, along with having written a rough draft of a new book and some other projects.
Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.
For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. You can find me on Facebook under my full name Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani
Recently, I started a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. I will be blogging there, too, now.