It's been almost a month since I've had the chance to post anything. Some good things in the works, but for right now, I'll keep them under wraps I applied for a new grant which I have snowball's chance in hell getting, but hey you have to put yourself in it, to win it. Ultimately, I don't mind writing grants, it makes me reflect on my work, which I think for an artist is always important. The latest reflection: In the grant application I was asked to write a personal statement as to what I thought my role as an artist is today and in the future. This was my response....
My role as a theatre artist today and in the future, is rooted in the past. It was carried in the form of a song across the middle passage, hidden under the tongue of an African captive. A song that sung of sorrow, but knew hymns of joy. Rhythms that leap from the slave’s fingertips while plucking King Cotton from his womb, a song that saved him, even with chains on his feet. Three hundred years later, I know I was meant to sing that song for him before the world has forgotten the words.
More recently I was reminded in a workshop I was teaching why I do this, when a student asked “What was the job of the poet”. I knew the answer was on a wadded piece of paper in my pocket. A slightly over-weight girl had given to me when no one else was looking. She was sixteen, and just lost her premature baby because her body wasn’t ready to carry to full term. The first time she talked about it, was in a poem lying dormant in my pocket.
As an artist, I find my work gravitating to the stories of people like, Crosley Alex Green who sits in a cell on Florida’s Death Row for a crime he could not have committed. The poor, the disenfranchised, the weak, those just out of reach of the light, who have no way of letting their voice be heard, is where my role screams it’s providence in my ears.
The first play I wrote was a reaction to meeting a homeless man on a subway late one night. I found myself feeling disgusted by the man, who had done no harm to me, all he wanted was someone to listen to him, to hear his story, but I was too wrapped up in my own life, and had no time for his. Later that night, I was embarrassed by my reaction, and realized my behavior was indicative of today’s society. Slowly bits of our humanity have been stripped away and sacrificed on the altar of everyday life. It’s too easy to become wrapped up in our own lives and never see the beauty, the pain, and the brilliance of the person standing next to us on the train. That night in an effort to make amends to a man I knew I would never see again, I wrote his story, the first monologue in my play Essential Personnel.
As a theatre artist, this is my calling to remember those who have come before me, and pass that knowledge on to those who will be here after me. To find our collective pain, and heal those wounds. To fight for those who don’t have the strength or voice to be heard. To reconnect myself and the audience to what it means to be human. To make the world a better place. One play at a time.