I always consider my experience with art in terms of Relevance & Empathy, two words that are thrown around culture but rarely examined in detail.
“I feel like you had to be there.”
That is how my husband describes his non-emotional reaction to Andy Warhol. He understands Warhol’s place in art history and why he was revolutionary at the time, but he doesn’t feel anything when faced with Campbell’s Soup paintings.
That’s my reaction to a lot of classical plays, and even recent writers like Stoppard and Sam Shepard. I appreciate and enjoy them; often my brain is stimulated. I just rarely feel much that applies to my life at that very moment, or my future. (There are a handful of exceptions, as always, but I can only think of one, and it’s a film.)
New plays, especially ones that are set in an apartment, often miss the mark with me as well.
I want to be rattled by a play. I want to leave thinking about my life, my neighbor’s life, my cousin in Boston’s life, my son’s life, my boss’s life…..in a new play or adaptation, I want to leave with a perspective I did not have before entering the theater. I want to think more deeply about people and the world and how we all affect each other. I want to spend an evening in a way that directly affects my decision making in the future. Not that there’s anything wrong with a good old escapist comedy or anything; I like those too. I personally don’t see them as often.
With the very recent exception of E.M. Lewis’s The Gun Show, I haven’t felt simultaneously thrilled, revolted, and moved in…..years?
Mac Rogers did that to me. Twice already in 2015.
It left me as fucked up and oddly resolved as the characters in the play felt (otherwise known as empathy).
It gave me insight into a trope I typically despise: dependent relationships, especially when the female looks to be the more dependent one.
Since VIRAL last month, it made me want a different local theater to produce a different Mac Rogers play every single month so I can get my relevance and empathy fix. I would even buy a subscription to it.
I’d say that’s a win.
http://www.theatreunleashed.org for tickets and more information.