In college, I was serious about theater.
I remember reading Sam Shepard plays and not being able to get inside them. I couldn’t find the door.
I couldn’t get ahold of his voice. It was so masculine, so rooted in earth and the West. It was in the dust and the dirt and I was looking above my head. That’s where eloquence lived. Or, so I thought. Now I think I was looking to get away from the most human parts of myself.
At that time in my life I was very far away from what the West has become for me. A place of forgetting. A place of expansion. I’ve expanded so much I have outgrown the things that hurt my smaller body.
I remember that love goes wrong in all of his plays.
A Fool for Love. Love was wrong.
Buried Child. Love was gone.
True West. Well, no one ever does it right.
I remember watching my friend, Bob, in one of his plays. I think it was in scene study. He came closer to it than I did. I felt like I was watching silent men be more silent. I couldn’t bare its slowness.
He wrote lines that hurt to speak. I never did figure out how to say them.
He wrote about brothers who loved and hated each other. He wrote sad women getting sadder. Sam Shepard wrote plays about broken families full of feelings they couldn’t share. He wrote about all the secrets hidden in their skin. He wrote about what happens when you lose.
No wonder those plays are so hard to do well. No one wants to feel like a loser for another second.
I felt a pang in my body this morning, like we all lost something we needed.
The people need theater. Plays are the most human thing. Far more human than TV or film. Even clumsy theater has a place in the public. And if we’re honest, most of it is clumsy. We’re all fumbling around in the dark looking for ourselves.
I wish I could see the lights go out on Broadway tonight. It’s easier to feel things in the dark. Maybe we should take a minute to dim the lights for the things that matter.
If anyone asks for me tonight, tell them I’ve gone home to dim the lights.