We All Learn Eventually
In 2009 World Theatre Day changed my life.
I am a community minded sort. Often my reaction to any given event is: How could we have involved more people? How could more folks have been helped?
When Rebecca Coleman mentioned on Twitter that Vancouver had celebrated a city-wide World Theatre Day in 2008 and what if we made that happen across cities? I was or course interested. I had no idea what I could do locally. I had no money, no space and no standing company to help me with either. But I could help activate Austin and push other leaders to do something.
Latifah Taormina of what was then the Austin Circle of Theatres was one of the folks who I reached out to to try to facilitate an event. She suggested presenting this controversial piece that everyone was talking about, Seven Jewish Children by Caryl Churchill. She suggested that I direct it, she would help with space and with gathering cast on short notice. I said yes and we did it. And we used the hottest technology of 2020 – we live streamed it. And Caryl Churchill watched it and wrote a nice note.
But what changed was I had a broader community in Austin that Latifah had introduced me to, and I had a broader community online that I was talking with regularly. Those conversations turned into 2amtheatre.com which almost turned into something, and the community in Austin turned into a really lovely second half of our stay there.
It’s a really happy memory.
But also it was my first real indication of how shitty people are just reflexively. I was pretty naïve. The handful of us pushing WTD09 on line had basically said: here’s this made up day to celebrate a thing we love, let’s really celebrate. And folks by the truckload stopped by to throw trash at it.
It’s a made up holiday who fucking cares? Why does an artform need a day?
There was no indication from the folks lobbing dissatisfaction that they understood that The Art Government wasn’t making us eat cake, That Big Art Retail wasn’t trying to sell us World Theatre Day cards and flowers.
A handful of folks said lets make a cake and say something nice abut theatre and there was an immediate desire from folks to tear it down because the impulse is to tear down. Always. Building is hard. Being too cool to eat some sheet cake is easy.
It was my first experience with the internet knowing that because it didn’t feel like doing something, rather than letting it happen without their notice or comment they had to be destructive or someone might enjoy something without benefiting them.
The idea of celebrating theatre is of course stupid, and sentimental, and romantic. It imagines an artform that was born as soon as the second person was able to communicate with the first needed celebration or a boost.
It doesn’t of course and the world is much better if all we discuss is racism and balance sheets.
I just love making people feel things by telling them stories, and I love working with others who feel the same way. And I like cake.