I Am Big. It's the Pictures That Got Small

for those wonderful people out there in the dark

20 February 2008

On Being Ephemeral

Just a couple of more thoughts about my theater experience. Oh, before that, this is a wonderful photo of me during a rehearsal by Syndi Kavanaugh; she plays the "lying bitch terrorist" puppet.

I am especially enjoying the ephemeral quality of performance. Whether it's writing poetry, grading papers, or blogging, I find myself immersed in the futile attempt of trying to make something permanent, something inked or blotted or pixelled, which has some kind of pretense of the fixed, of the located. Yes, it's Frost's momentary stay against confusion.

But the performative arts, at least those which are not filmed or recorded, have no such pretense. It's the here, the now, just the immediate encounter with the audience. The conspiracy, that imaginative communicative act, is there and there, and then no more. Yes, in the reading of a poem, a reader may have that kind of private communion, one that has its transient and impermanent qualities, but the poem stays there all the same, implacable, indifferent. But this other kind of art, this presentation, expects no such extended contract. I know that there is something liberating at work here, and I want to play with it when I return to writing my own poetry.

Also the piece we are performing is also in transition, in frequent revision, as Barry Cavin continues to change this or that after our performances. It is more than a little unnerving, but it's also about attaining a kind of lightness, too. The student actors are amazingly game, resilient, and receptive, all of which humbles me all the more. And then, simultaneously, I am proud of it all. I realize, of course, how I am but the most pathetic of amateurs at this performative art thing (yes, I realize I am always performing as a teacher, as a poet, but that's a different animal altogether). But when you are a part of a troupe, feeling the heat of those lights and the audience just beyond, knowing that it is all disappearing even before you speak your first words, you realize how beautiful these moments are. This one and this one and this one.

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