First Post: Part One
I can’t get around it: first posts are a drag. There’s just too much pressure, so I feel a bit defeated before I even begin. This time around, though, I figure I’d share a pair of speeches I delivered for two different commencements at Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre.
First up: my commencement speech for Dell’Arte International’s Professional Training Program, Class of 2013…
Towards the end of the first ten weeks, I was frustrated. Now, I (like many of us) knew Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre would be a frustrating place going in; that the pedagogy was decidedly agitational in nature. But what surprised me was the prolonged relationship to frustration over those first ten weeks: how I learned that it could be both a fuel and a detriment, when and how to let it vent or not vent, and how, in a white-hot moment when I felt like I had reached my last straw, I found myself typing the following in a weekly reflection:
“Maybe it’s no longer the case of me not grasping ‘the gravity of the work.’ Maybe ‘the gravity of the work’ needs to start stepping it up. Newton’s Law of Inertia is an equation, after all. So I ask you, O Arbiters of The Work, crank up the gravity as high as you can and then tear the goddamn knob off. Fucking crush me with the work, bludgeon me with it, beat me senseless with it, worry that you’re going to murder me with the work and that you’ll need to draft a military-style killed-in-action letter to my family on Dell’Arte letterhead, because collapsing bloodstained on the River Campus floor would be a far, far preferable fate than continuing to walk blindfolded across the ten-lane highway of your disappointment.”
I submitted that on a Monday. Two days later, Moses kicked my face in half in Watershed.
Strangely enough, I got exactly what I asked for.
We come to Blue Lake staunch believers in all the wrong things: indication, anecdote, production value, positive reinforcement; talismans we cling to both here and in our non-theatrical lives. But here we learn that the opposite is actually true: that you, as an instrument, are sufficient, and always have been. Not your machinations, not your “neat ideas,” but you. You’re also only human, but — paradoxically — it is those moments of frustration, of ignorance, of faithlessness, those moments we fight like hell to keep buried and managed which are to be the most cherished, as they’re moments of intense revelation. The school teaches that when you are pushed, either here or in life, push back. When you are confused, be still and simply listen. When you are lost, step forward boldly in literally any direction. Not only will the world not end, the path ahead will be illuminated in a way you couldn’t imagine.
I want to believe that this was Carlo’s great genius, even though I never met the man: that the phrase “your partner is the best partner” is really a shorthand for choosing to believe that the universe has been designed to provide, for each of us, in our time, the means to our own greatness. When Ronlin tells us to eschew this “Age of Irony,” perhaps he’s simply telling us to shelve our scientific understanding of the world as we know it and instead to embrace a poetic philosophy of existence. Our universe does not reach to the infinite, it lasts only for this moment. We are not plopped on this arbitrary planet in this arbitrary solar system in this arbitrary time, time and space are ours to command if we choose to make them important. We do not toil in existential solitude, but are instead supported, either by the arms of a supreme creator or simply by our ensemble partners. The journey of life has not been walked by countless others before us, it is meeting each of us for the first time anew.
Or put another way: how maddeningly beautiful and how beautifully maddening is it that you could be thrown together with 26 complete strangers and, eight months later, not be able to imagine life without them? How else does that happen?
At the end of those first ten weeks, as my face was healing, I found myself writing something else. It’s remained a bit of a mystery to me since first scrawling it in my journal, but it’s something I’ve returned to over the style blocks as a source of strength and inspiration. I hope it can be as useful to you in your journeys ahead as it has been to me.
“The earth has made a place for you. It can hold your two feet, your four hands, your seventeen eyes, and your fifty-nine teeth. She will greet you every morning with the sunrise and dissolve into your sleep with a starry majesty. The earth will not leave you, or get mad with you, or break. So let the storm come. Unlock your chest and let the seas crash outward. Beat the earth with it; she will stand firm. Douse the fires others have made; they will be rebuilt. Suffocate the wind; it won’t go down without a fight — not without twisting around your watery heart and sending your guts spiraling, screaming toward the heavens. You will be torn apart and lightning will course through you, and you will fall back to earth together, ready to topple cities and amaze children. Believe that today was meant for you. Let the storm come.”
To my new family: thank you for this wonderful year.