“Meet the time as it seeks us” – Shakespeare, Cymbeline
I miss the theatre violently. Terribly. Viscerally.
I am now cut off from everything that defines me as an artist. The unexpected encounter, the rehearsal hall, a discovery, a disappointment, an imperfect but essential statement, a moment of beauty that unnerves me: all these beams of light are so distant now. It hurts.
I continue to read and to dream, but the exercise leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. The exhausting uncertainty and the rage that arises from helplessness condemn me to sleepless nights, just like the thought of the fragile beings that surround me everywhere – there are so many of them. But I know that I am not alone in my insomnia. Friends and strangers alike from all parts of society are experiencing similar feelings. It is proof that we are linked; that we are also a community. I like this. It gives me hope.
I am reduced to reflection. I write “reduced” because without practice, without implementation, the theatre does not exist for me. Not really. Conceptualizing theatre can only approximate its true and very real brilliance.
The world that gave meaning to the theatre no longer exists.
How do I dialogue with Power when my reason for being, my profound wish to connect with an audience, is now impossible? How can I be creative when face-to-face theatre is dangerous? How do I live with this disease in the long term? How do I prepare for the future without falling into clichés or facile solutions? To rely on polls to determine future programming and to believe that only technology holds desperately sought after solutions both seem suspect. They make me feel even more fragile. What to do?
Each day of confinement that passes, benchmarks disappear. Aesthetics, complexity, hybridity – these seem to be overwhelmed by the scale of the medical crisis. The fact that political leaders with whom I shared so little ideological affinity just a few months ago have revealed themselves to be effective and reasonable leaders is not reassuring. In this new world, adversaries have become allies and partners of the past act without stopping to keep pace with artists.
It is a paradigm shift I never anticipated.
I know the theatre will be reborn.
Whether in some other form or with some other appearance, eager audiences will be there, like me. We will know how to replenish it. We will love it again. We will be one once again.
In the meantime, I will tame this beast that separates me from my practice, the one that is curiously called “time”. I didn’t think that what I had been asking for so long –”time” to think about my craft and art, “time” to dream of projects, “time” to brainstorm new ideas – would actually turn out to be a pernicious master. Did I need so much “time” to understand that these same words will never again have the same meaning?
Yes, absolutely. This is the first great lesson of this journey, both for me personally and for society at large.
I accept it.
For now, I will stay close to my kin. They are my clan.
With them, I will be fragile.
With them, I will be patient.
With them, I will be creative.
With them, I will herald the return of the essential light that gives meaning to our existence and to our City.
Joël Beddows, TfT’s Artistic Director