Tuesday, June 9, 2009

on SITI summer-part four OR the young man talking polemics in the cafeteria

let's face it: theatre tends to breed hyperbole.

there is a young man in the program who is, well, young. he's very sweet, and seems to have a lot of knowledge. but one thing he does is go around talking in polemics. most of the time, he get's a laugh or someone talks around it or over it. today, i witnessed someone call him out on it.

it was fascinating to watch. at first. but then i found myself engaging in the discussion despite the fact that i didn't really care about the subject (it was about musical theatre, which i really don't care about at all). what ended up happening was basically four of us were giving him a bit of a tongue lashing. i felt bad for a second, but it made me think a bit.

i still talk in polemics sometimes. as a breed, us shorbs tend toward debate. and going to oberlin just pushed that gene a little further into outright huge general arguments. but i've learned about them. a shit load of people have called me out on the polemics, and i've grown to be a bit careful.

because polemics are potentially destructive. at the core, they can divide communities, cause hurt, or break down safe-havens. and because of this potential destruction, they are highly powerful. and that power requires responsibility.

i realize in hindsight that i engaged in this discussion not because i cared about musical theatre, or even whether or not this young man did anything about it. but more because i wanted to say: you can't do polemics casually. you need to account for it and commit to whatever outcome ensues. it needs to be specific. a polemic that doesn't lead to eventual construction or reconstruction is no more than another way to be witty.

commitment to construction, redefining, and creating new structures and communities has made me think of why i'm here. about my place in this community here and my place in my community back in austin and diasporically. i spoke with lovely partner last night about how i come from a very specific subject position, and my path is paved with the love and support of many individuals and a cohesive *community* of active supporters. training here does me much personal good, yes. and, of course, it will enrich my abstract future audience, yes. but ultimately my training here is not mine to keep. i have a long list of people for whom i am learning. people who might not have access to this information otherwise, or at least that access would be heavily impeded. so when i move through a certain solitude of training with strangers who have very different politics, aesthetics, individual purpose and life experiences from me, i think of the faces of specific people who gave me ten, twenty bucks. or who said, "hey, i can't spare any money right now, but i think it's really important you are going." not only do they believe in me as an artist, but they need me to bring back what i learn. i am a vessel. and after i've begun sharing with those folks what i've learned, we will regroup and reforge into the future.

this specificity gives me purpose and keeps me quite far from the casual. the first couple days, i was strangely needy and over-sharey with other participants here. in some ways, i wanted to "recast" the people in my life with the ones here. but that's not gonna happen. it can't happen. i don't want it to happen. because i remain accountable to what and who awaits my return. that accountability drives my work, and that accountability lead me here. i am careful. i have purpose. i was chosen to be here just as much by siti as by the people i've worked with over the years. and as much as i have chose them.

i am thankful for this reminder. and perhaps that's why i am trying to speak in hyperbole a little bit less.


kimberly said...

oh yeah! yeah! yeah! who are you doing your work for? who are you accountable to? fundamental questions of the artist-mensch! yeah!

Anonymous said...

I love this blog entry, and I love you. But you know that. --squirrell