“We read to know we are not alone.”
I sent in a post to the OMPF blog last year. When Dominic invited the playwrights to write something again this year, I wondered if I had anything new or worthwhile to say on the matter. I wondered if I could explain how last year’s rampant badassery had given way to this year’s philosophy and elevators. I wondered if I could write something in the same light-hearted tone. I wondered if I should justify the knowing nods, the winks, the blatantly self-referential moments of this year’s plays. I wondered if Dominic had rolled his eyes while reading them. I wondered if I should thank him for accepting them anyway.
I was still wondering these things as I sat in Massachusetts General Hospital waiting for my youngest son to come out of surgery. I knew that if I did write a blog post again this year, it wouldn’t set the same light-hearted tone as either my plays or last year’s post. My son had a port-a-cath installed so that he can begin his third course of chemotherapy in 6 years for an inoperable brain tumor. As I sat there, watching television and waiting for them to tell me he was in recovery, I saw the first reports from Newtown. To say that the moment was surreal is to discount it. Last year I wrote about the “suddenly moment”, those times in our lives when something happens that we know we will remember forever. Sometimes those moments change our lives, sometimes they just hit us emotionally and stay with us. Hearing about the shootings will stay with me. Learning that my son has a brain tumor changed me. Both were suddenly moments.
“We read to know we are not alone.” C.S. Lewis wrote that. It is one of my favorite quotes. I suppose we all want to think of ourselves as unique. But we read to know we are not. To know that our stories are unique only in that we are the ones who live them. To know that once again, the Beatles were right, there is nothing we can do that can’t be done. Perhaps to know there is nothing we can do that hasn’t been done.
But what about those of us who write? If mankind reads to know it is not alone, somebody has to be willing to share their stories, in the open, for all the world to see.
When I have to deliver bad news, I feel compelled to offer reassurances, if I can. In my son’s case, I’m lucky. My son will be fine, for now, and probably for a very long time into the future. He has “the good kind” of brain tumor. We are buying time with chemo until he is old enough for radiation. I’m hoping that if we hold out long enough radiation will be delivered with a tricorder just like on Star Trek. My son has a brain tumor. It’s not something I talk about all the time but I don’t actively avoid talking about it either. It’s there. I share the story, good and bad, with anybody who asks or needs to know.
But what does any of this have to do with the One-Minute Play Festival? As I said before, this year my inspirations were philosophy and elevators. It all started with my oldest son’s philosophy class where I jokingly told him you could sum up existentialism into one sentence. Then I read an article about the Fort Point artistic community’s new program of providing performances in elevators (that article mentioned musicians). But I thought, why not one minute plays? If you can boil a play down to one dramatic moment, can you boil a philosophical argument down in a similar way? Can you put it into a play? Can you perform that play in a single elevator ride?
Maybe I have made this post light-hearted after all. Or maybe it’s just an incoherent mess. I do have a philosophy about art and its place in our lives. I don’t have it boiled down to a single sentence. Perhaps that will be next year’s post. In the meantime, I firmly believe that when we face tragic events, either collectively or individually, we turn to our leaders for action but we turn to our artists for comfort, support, to help us make sense of it all. Even an artistic endeavor that shares the stories one minute at a time makes us all feel less alone.
The 2nd Annual Boston One-Minute Play Festival in partnership with Boston Playwrights’ Theatre will run Jan 5-7 at 8PM at BPT. Tickets are $20 and available here.The Jan 6th performance will livestream howlround.com’s New Play TV.