To Be or Not To Be– or May the Force Be with You

There is a T.V. special coming up on OPB (Mon. 10/19) about the Oregon Shakespeare Festival which I (and several others of our group) was lucky enough to attend recently. How incredible to have this resource in our own back yard. This kind of theater– honest, raw, poetic, funny and beautiful– illuminates the power of art. This theater experience is another example of the importance of conncetion.

There was a monologue from Long Day’s Journey Into Night which I’ve heard many times before, but yet, I’ve never heard before. This performance by Danforth Comins cracked open my heart. Blood and fresh oxygen intermingled. I was touched to the point of tears. What a joy to be able to feel that way! Art can do that! It is no wonder this play, along with 3 others, merited Eugene O’Neill a Pulitzer prize (and a Nobel Prize for Literature). It was a late play and highly auto-biographical—catharsis out loud. (’s-Journey-into-Night)

Actors talk about delivering lines like these. They are hard to say in a way that resonates. They are so intimate and personal, naked and truthful that it is very easy to be self-conscious or simply not understand the depth of the honesty that the author was willing to reveal. I’ve listened to this monologue online recited by several different actors after seeing the OSF production last week and I know why I remembered the power of the plot but not the poetry in the play. In the recordings the lines were not rooted in the heart and soul of the speaker as they were in the writer.

One of the things the actors mention when discussing their craft is the importance of their collaborators onstage. They talk about trusting. They talk about looking in their partner’s eyes and feeling “the net”. They talk about the freedom and the security to recreate performance without conscious thought. They talk about “being in the moment” despite having recited those words hundreds of times. It’s the ability to be that “present” and connected that communicates meaning and character to the listeners.

These principles are the same in any creative act that reverberates with an audience. But in painting there is usually no collaborator, except perhaps your subject.

Choosing a subject is tricky business. Do you explore something that is a simple, or perhaps a complex, curiosity? Or do you look to express deep emotion? Is it about imagination or invention? Or is it about re-creating beauty, or sharing some experience? Is there a political statement that feels important, or a “love letter” to a time and place? Whatever it may be, the most important part of the process of painting is the connection you have to your subject, even if it is only in your mind’s eye. And like the actor, trust yourself enough to feel the freedom and the security to create without conscious thought. Let the importance of results fade away in the doing.

So I’m saying care but don’t care. Trust. See. Be willing to let go and look to yourself to find “the net”. In sports they say “Be the ball” or “be in the flow”. In modern culture, it’s the “force”. Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi: “The Force is what gives a Jedi (an artist) his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.”To reach out and touch someone, or, in effect, bind yourself to another, a stranger,through your creative efforts indeed implies there are forces at work.

If you’re not familiar with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, check out OBP on Monday to see this amazing “force” in our own little section of the universe– and may the force be with you.

For further reading here is a Psychology Today article that also talks about connections (slightly different, but it all hooks up for me.) :

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