Thursday, November 6, 2008

Obligatory Post-Election Post

Actually, I'm gonna try and kill as many birds as possible with one blog entry, but we'll start with the political angle.

Through a number of conversations with friends this week I discovered that I was a little off the mark with my views of how the political process has become disheveled. I also came to understand a little better exactly why it is I am a non-voter.

I take back all I may have said online or off about the election becoming a spectator sport and the equivalent to a college football rivalry. The media coverage of the event most certainly has regressed into that sort of loyalty-baiting, crashing helmets imagery, but, from what I witnessed Tuesday night, this sort of branding has not been able to infect the greater public. What I witnessed as the night went on and in the days after was, for the most part, not reactionary, bragging rights-driven competition for the sake of beating the other guy. Granted, there are a few idiots out there who get swept up in the excitement of it all and can't see past the red state/blue state map and percentage reporting signs, but you're gonna have those people anywhere. And yeah, the next day, there were a few morons out there who couldn't help but start every conversation with, "Boy, I wonder how the Republicans feel right now", but those people are bound to show up to the party, too. What I mostly saw was, for a word that has been tossed around offhandedly for the last few months, genuine hope.

I am very much an individualist. Mixed in with that individualism is a healthy dose of idealism. This results in an unerring sense of 'it'll all work out', but with a lot more immediacy than that mindset usually presents. The idealist side of me is convinced that things will be okay, and the individualist side knows that things will be okay because if they are not, I will do what I need to do to make them so. For the record, I also stand by the fact that, to this point, the view has completely worked. I'm in a very happy place right now because of the sometimes very large and less than certain decisions that I have made while in situations that were much less happy. And to me, this is an approach that is universally appropriate. No matter the sociopolitical landscape, my ability to enjoy the world that I live in is far and away most directly connected to the choices I make for myself. It's in the realization and taking charge of that fact that I place myself in the observer role in the political process. As I said to a friend on Tuesday night, the man in the Oval Office has no effect on what I achieve; only on how I go about achieving it.

But something sunk in while I watched footage of thousands and thousands of tear-streaked Americans in Grant Park on Tuesday night. For most of these people, Obama was the only possibility for hope they had in this thing. That, rather than "it'll all work out", for millions of Americans, Obama in office was the only representation they could find for the faith that they had lost in the potential for true optimism for our society. That, for many of my friends and for hundreds of thousands of people who flocked downtown just to be near this singular happening, President-Elect Obama was the signifier that things can be okay. And while this makes no effect in my decision to be a non-voter -- in my vision, it is in my power to make things some sort of okay for myself no matter the man in office -- it does rekindle the awareness that to a lot of people, and a growing number at that, the election and the President who emerges is not (as the media coverage would have me believe) just another contest, another opportunity to gloat over your fellow man. For a massive number of people, our President-Elect is the hinge on which their future lies, which isn't a mindset I am able to tap into necessarily, but it certainly is a beautiful thing to watch.

McCain in office would have had the potential to present many more obstacles to my contentment, but by the same token, I appreciate little more than a good challenge. However, as much beauty can be found in hardship and necessity and people working through them, there nothing that quite compares to seeing the people I love and cherish truly happy. I was in a room full of them on Tuesday night, and as much as I could have reacted equally to the cold, hard results of the election either way, there was only one direction I wanted the warmth and fraternity of the atmosphere to take, and that was cheering, tears of joy, wide grins, and a crashing tide of hope.

I did not vote. I still have no desire to have cast a ballot in this election or to do so in the future. Things would have worked out and the world would have moved on either way, as it was bound to do, and I would much rather observe. But I am tremendously glad that Obama won, for the sake of those I hold dear.


It's pretty safe to say that the Edward II/Cabaret Of Desire entry has been lost to other topics. Here's the short version that may come up in other conversations or future entries:

I really enjoyed Edward, but it got me thinking a lot about the promenade style and how it is most effective. There seemed to be two schools of thought running parallel in one show: the Hypocrites/Sean Graney 'bring the audience into the play' self-awareness and the Chicago Shakes/Jeffrey Carlson 'create a new 360 degree fourth wall' traditionalism. Both work (though not perhaps at the same time), but there are a lot of interesting questions about how, when, and why each approach works. I tend to think the fourth wall approach works a little better in this situation, in which the audience is still very removed from the period and language presented. It's also, I believe, why The Hypocrites' Miss Julie didn't quite work for me. I love the execution, but there's a certain distance from the actual events taking place that make it really hard for an audience to feel as though they are truly implicit in the work. There has to be either an entry point of familiarity for us or a conceit, such as As Told By The Vivian Girls' paper doll masks, to assist us in bridging the gap.

As you can tell by its standing over in The Best of The Best, I really enjoyed Cabaret Of Desire. Blair Thomas & Co. have truly embraced the surrealism of Lorca's work and have presented it as is, rather than trying to imbue explanation. It's a gorgeous work and it got me thinking about the fine line between dada and surrealism and how much of it boils down not to symbology or meaning so much as the idea behind whether or not such symbology is present. Whereas dada freely exercises the fact that there is no meaning, surrealism thrives not on the meaning itself, but the notion that somewhere, deep inside, some idea of meaning is lying dormant. The show closes this weekend, so get out and see it.

Also interesting was my decision to list Cabaret but not Edward in The Best of The Best. My enjoyment of them was about the same, and I hemmed and hawed about whether I was going to include Edward as well, but in the end it came down to the fact that, while I enjoyed Edward in execution despite a few theoretical glitches, I enjoyed Cabaret in execution despite a few performance glitches (Chimera, one of the first pieces, really had me worried that I was in for a long evening). I guess that means I hold theoretical achievement a little higher than technical achievement. What that means in a wider scale, I have no idea, but it struck me as an observation worth acknowledging.


Best news of the week:

The calendar for Goodman's O'Neill Festival is officially set, and, despite the fact that I will be rehearsing/teching/opening ...And They Put Handcuffs On The Flowers with The Right Brain Project during that time and also the fact that some of these productions are running as few as three performances, I will be able to make it to all seven of the visiting shows. Ironically, I'm still undecided if I'm actually going to take in the Goodman production of the Festival. There is very, very little that I have been as excited for this year as this line-up. Tickets go on sale December 5th, and you better believe I will be one of the first to have some.

Also, I received a flyer for Chicago Shakes' World's Stage shows and they seem to be continuing the tradition of a slate of shows that sound mostly interesting but not much more capped by a piece that looks to blow my socks off. This, my friends, is going to rock.


And last but certainly not least, D-Hall tagged me for a meme (EDIT: Laura got me, too!), so I may as well play along.

Seven random and/or weird facts about myself:

1. I am a Christmas baby. I was born on December 23rd, and yes, it sucks. However, you are all invited plenty in advance to my 34th birthday blowout bash from Dec. 23-25, 2016. In honor of surviving longer than Jesus, I will be postponing our annual birthday competition and celebrating only my birth with three days of debauchery. And gifts. Birthday gifts. Not Christmas gifts and definitely not one gift to celebrate both occasions. We hate that shit.

2. I will eat pretty much anything you place in front of me. The only three foods that really give me pause are pumpkin pie, cranberries, and sweet potatoes. Thanksgiving is not my holiday.

3. My mother was in the army before I was born. She acheived a Sharpshooter rating with a rifle and an Expert rating with a hand grenade. It's an unsettling feeling to occasionally have to remind yourself that your mother could efficiently end your life with a number of implements of destruction.

4. Among the places I have been streaking: Homecoming at the University of Northern Iowa, a haunted house, for a full half-mile down a rural Iowa highway, and across Lake Shore Drive at Belmont on a relatively traffic heavy Friday night.

5. Despite my apparent propensity for being au natural, I have never been nude on stage. This is about to change in February with ...And They Put Handcuffs On The Flowers, which, for those of you not familiar with the play is kind of what people mean when they say, "If you're going to go, go all out." I expect all of you to be clamoring for tickets if only for a chance to view the P.Rekk goodies.

6. We used to play a game in Northwest Iowa called Blotting. I'm not supposed to tell you what Blotting is until you are preparing to play it with me, but since I doubt I will ever play in Chicago, what the hell. In Blotting, every player is given some sort of small processed snack cake, usually Twinkies, but I have also played with Hostess Fruit Pies. We would then find a street that wasn't particularly busy (maybe a car every minute or two) and place our Twinkies on the street where we felt they were in the line of traffic. As cars would pass by, we would keep adjusting the Twinkies until everyone's had finally been run over. After the last person's Twinkie had been smashed, everyone rushed out into the street and had to eat their Twinkie without using their hands. The first person to finish wins. There are pictures in existence of me eating a squished Twinkie off of asphalt.

7. I have become typecast as mute. I don't know how this happened exactly, but for three shows running I have played a mute or silent character in some aspect. The frightening part is how accustomed I have become to communicating on stage without words, to the point where DADA [g]nimbus has to actively remind himself to speak sometimes.

Yeah, I'm not tagging anyone. It's there if you want it. Call me the Scrooge of memes.


There! Look at all the topics I addressed! It's a light, light week this week -- just Pavement Group's Arrangements on Friday night -- so hopefully I can stay on track. But a light, light week typically means a week so heavy elsewhere that I can't squeeze any more theatre in, so I make no promises. Nor should you believe me if I ever do.



Verbal said...

Choosing not to vote is like drowning and choosing not to try and swim.

Paul Rekk said...

The implication being that living in America is one way street to death that can only be temporarily postponed by voting? Cheery outlook!

You keep treading water, verbal. I'll make sure I'm fine no matter who y'all put in office.