Working Title: Social Gravity

This week Will sets aside his regular juxtaposition of theatre and film to look at his invigorating experience at this years Theatre Bay Area Conference.

There is a key concept of Big Bang Cosmology that states that space is ever expanding and doing so at an accelerating rate. Its called the metric expansion of space. Think of it as the entire scale of the universe growing larger. Every space between the clumps of galaxies getting bigger. As space expands all the celestial gatherings who once were close to each other will grow further and further from one another given enough time. Picture our own Milky Way Galaxy and as the entirety of the space around us increases we drift and settle into compact isolation as the eons roll by. Sometimes I feel that growing further into adulthood has this effect.

It feels like a law of nature or a fact of life and therefore isn’t something that you can get overtly angry about. People grow up, leave home, leave school, leave jobs, start a new life, start a new relationship, start a new family, change communities, change paths, change all the time. Its hard to get mad at a clock for ticking. Yet, it is something that can induce pensive thoughts of times gone by. Or aspects of our lives that we have let drift. Two weeks ago I attended the annual Theatre Bay Area Conference and was struck with an overwhelming sense of how much I miss being more closely entwined with the theatre community in the Bay Area.

For almost a year now, I’ve held a job that regularly works it’s employees 55-70 hours a week. Additionally, only a day to day schedule is provided which all but dashes any kind of plan making. It’s hard to plan a sleeping schedule, let alone plan any theatre involvement. It wears on you. it grinds constantly. On the flip side of that coin, I experienced a rejuvenation by spending mere hours in the company of creative individuals who were passionate and excited about the state of Bay Area theatre today.

The first break out session I attended, Slapping the Monkey: Offensive Theatre, was uniformly funny, challenging, thought-provoking and at times borderline-offensive. The panel was damn fun! It was great to be back in a space where artists of varying kinds (street performers, puppeteers, writers, directors, company artistic directors) flooded the audience with their ideas of creative currency. These discussions filled the time with value. Their myriad opinions of what qualifies as offensive theatre ran the gamut. “Lazy Theatre is offensive” / “Audiences who put up with shitty, sub-standard theatre are offensive. Those audiences offend me as an artist!” / “Street performance by nature is offensive…that’s why I do it.” / “I’ve never been offended by something I thought was good.” This was the kind of discussion that makes you feel glad to be a part of something. Participants and audience members alike were active and engaged with ideas: boundaries of offense, how that relates to good theatre, what goes too far, how much does intent play into offensive, is an artist responsible for the audience reaction, tactics to keep audiences engaged, tactics to offend, the list went on. All in attendance took part in an active discussion of how these things impacted the living organism of Bay Area theatre and us as a community.

It’s was nice to be reminded that we are all working in this community along side each other and not drifting alone out there. I filled the rest of the day by performing a few readings in the playwright workshop, having lunch with a sizable group of enjoyable friends and seeing the closing ceremonies / Glickman Award presentation. To my astounding pleasure, I also stole 20 minutes to audition for a play being produced this fall. It has been an age since I took the time to audition. Going through the motions of adult living has at times made me feel akin to a narcoleptic zombie, half asleep and dead inside. And one day of TBA events served to remind how good it is to feel active and alive. Regardless of how natural it is to drift away from things into adulthood, the only thing that keeps things bound together and of importance to each other is diligence and constant joyous effort. Instead of forever drifting into isolation, I think it’s time to fight towards social gravity and a community that pulls creativity together.

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