November 21, 2015
Away From the Star
The play is over. Today I watched the film Crazy Heart. Halfway through, I realized that I re-watched it because it’s a film about how the truth or truth telling, especially about oneself, can (if we are lucky) get us what we need. However, we realize quickly that what we need is not always what we think we need. What we need, if we have any consciousness around it, exists in Bollas’s “unthought known.”
The post-partum/post-show blues remind us about this disjuncture between desire and need. Desire or desiderare means “away from the star.” Desire is separation and the natural anxiety and sadness that comes with that separation. Us collaborators must all wrestle with the loss of the burgeoning life in our collective womb, its birth and its separation from us.
The baby is born. The play is done and we are apart. We always have been. And that is life: being a part and apart.
My desire is to be close–to move closer, it hurts. I have failed so often in my life to do so when I really needed to. This hurts.
It’s been a long time since I was on stage. I have a visceral longing to be looking at my son in the way that I can on the stage—that gaze—under luminous stage lighting. I want to hold up those whom I care about and admire them like jewels for their radiance and depth and the way they look when their soul catches the light.
I want to see the world through that tender way that I can on stage where my ability to have and to hold, to love, is under the scrutiny of an audience who holds me through my weaknesses or challenges. When I fail at intimacy on stage, it doesn’t hurt like it does in life; it just makes me human. When I fail at intimacy in life, there are consequences, losses, and harm is done.
On the night of our dress rehearsal, during the Q and A, my son, Ethan, was talking for an exceedingly long time. I cut him off so that someone else could answer a question. A few minutes later a question came from the audience about the difference between life on the stage and life in the world in terms of our process: “What we were learning about the difference between the two?” I was able to refer to my having been abrupt with Ethan a few minutes earlier. I was able to say in front of the audience that for me that was an example of harm. On the stage, I can cut Ethan off and its part of the play, no harm is done. During the Q and A, the same behavior results in harm. In art we can say and do things we can’t in life and no one is hurt. Not so in life and maybe less so in therapeutic theater where we are negotiating those crevices between life and art and therapy.
I also miss being brave on stage. I want to be brave in that “rehearsed” way every day in my life. Telling the truth, practicing it, and being applauded for it.
In Crazy Heart, Bad Blake gets sober but (spoiler) he does not get the girl. What did I get that I needed but didn’t know I needed? Throughout the process, the years of getting here, my need is to feel whole—to have a whole family, whole relationships, and whole sense of my own being. Like the film, I didn’t get the girl, either.
But I have a lovely postmodern sense of the parts, the pieces, along with my renewed longing to understand better why the thing I seem to want the most (intimacy) is the thing that I resist. And, if autism, in part, is about the challenges of relating through the means that one has available, then my own human condition, my challenges with intimacy, reflects something deeply autistic about me that my son who lives with that word, that diagnosis, every day, does not wrestle with.
Cecilia and I talk often that the therapy is for us, not for the person living with the diagnosis or social condition that we are making the therapeutic theater for. It is for us who imagine that we are living the right and self-examined and “holy” way. Therapeutic theater is to remind us of what we need, not what we think we need.
I need to move closer.
November 14, 2015
The people of France and Lebanon were attacked by terrorists yesterday. Nick, our Director, said today in his curtain talk, “…Difference leads to fear, fear to anger, anger to violence and violence to terror. We stand with the people of the world tonight who are afraid.”
I think about our play about difference. I think about our efforts to build community that celebrates difference (whatever that difference). But the presence of community also reveals its absence in so many parts of life. Building community inevitably brings up questions or feelings of loneliness and isolation for everyone involved.
Negative Space in Therapeutic Theater:
“Negative space, in art, is the space around and between the subject(s) of an image. Negative space may be most evident when the space around a subject, not the subject itself, forms an interesting or artistically relevant shape, and such space occasionally is used to artistic effect as the “real” subject of an image.”
We can think about this negative space as a psychological space, like film critic Manny Farber did–the relationship between the art and the limitations of the artist (financial, physical, creative, etc.) or between the character/role and the actor.
In our process, we regard disability as a social construction. We can understand the dynamic relationship, the negative space of disability and difference, as a space that is both filled (with identities, projections, abilities, challenges) and empty (of opportunities for those very same identities, opportunities for meaningful work and social encounter).
The relationship between the container and the thing contained which negative space in art and in film concerns itself with is complex here. Is our community the container and disability the thing we contain? Or is it the opposite? Is disability and difference our container and our community the thing that is contained by disability?
Students in the NYU therapeutic theater course will read Sontag’s Against Interpretation this year. Her manifesto on post-modernism challenges us to eschew the binary of text and subtext for a “transparency”. Our play is an example of this. Therapy is happening in real time on the stage before an audience and a play/fiction is happening in real time before an audience. There is total transparency between the theater and the therapy for the audience the “subtext” is not hidden.
We warmed up today to The Cupid Shuffle. It’s a line dance:
The dance contained us. We moved together. Love moved us together. We also contained the dance. We contained love and difference. It felt like the WB Yeats poem Among School Children, “How can we know the dance from the dance?” We danced in the transparent, negative space, the all too real place between who we are (individually and as a group) and what we are doing together. It felt important on a day when many in the world are afraid, when we are profoundly aware of the consequences of difference in their ugliest and most brutal form. We danced…together.
– Maria Hodermarska