The theater isn’t about choosing sides—or, at least, in my view it shouldn’t be about choosing sides. No matter how political, how liberal or conservative the subject matter, the theater isn’t about choosing sides. It’s about dialogue. That is the medium of the playwright, the matter that is spoken by actors, shaped by directors, actualized by designers. “Dialogue” is defined as “conversation between two or more people.” This is the theater. We are conversation. Even a monologue or soliloquy is actually about conversation. The most famous soliloquy of all is the most basic of dialogues: Live? Die? In the theater we are always (or always should be) striving to understand the other side of the conversation. If not…
To my mind, engaging in dialogue is what most people actually want. We take up arms against enemies because we are angry, we want justice. But in the end what does violent justice bring us? Some sense that “justice has been served?” “Wrong has been righted?” Maybe. But who can look at the end of the play which gave us that famous soliloquy–where, in the end, everyone we care about is dead, and an otherwise absentee character finally arrives to tell us that all will now be set right–who could experience all that and feel happy? If that were your life, if you were living it right now, could you look at the results and find fulfillment? Justice may have been served, but do we understand why so many had to suffer before we reach that point?
Too abstract? We got bin Laden. Is your life today better than it was? Safer? Did it justify the deaths of so many soldiers? so many civilian Afghanis? And I ask this seriously. I’m not trying to say one way or the other whether we’re better off or not, because I genuinely struggle with this question myself. As an individual, I’m a pretty staunch pacifist. I hold few higher than Ghandi & MLK. But my heart leapt when I heard that we got bin Laden. I think on other icons of “evil men”–Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Innocent III–would I rejoice at their violent deaths? Probably. I watched Inglorious Basterds and tittered at the fantasy of Hitler dying such an ignoble and painful death.
Is there anything wrong with this kind of response? No. It’s animal. As a friend of mine would say, it’s our “lizard brain” at work–millions of years of evolution expressing themselves. But it’s fucking candy, not nourishment, because we are more than our lizard brains. And I don’t mean some Rousseau v. Hobbes dichotomy where we have evolved beyond the primitive. Too easy, too binary. No, sir, we live that dichotomy every day. It’s always with us, the ancient lizard living in symbiosis with the civilized human. Our own minds are live as dialogue: instinct v. logic. An old theme, but a true one: Dialogue is the human condition, and there are seldom, if ever, any final answers. The only constant in that interior world is inconsistency. Back & forth. So, to my mind, we have to embrace that. As theater artists we have to choose that–we have to choose not to pick a side in our work. In our lives…
The thing is, once you open yourself up to dialogue, it’s hard to buy into any worldview that isn’t plural. So, I guess, in the end I do choose a side. But it’s not Republican v. Democrat; Conservative v. Liberal; Us v. Them. It’s the open mind v. the closed mind; plural v. singular. That’s kind of a singular way of thinking, but fuck it. The closed mind needs to be destroyed.
In fact, those minds must be fucking eradicated.
Not the lives attached to them, I’m not calling for armed rebellion–remember, I’m a pacifist. I don’t care what close-minded individuals do with themselves. But their opinions need to be removed from the greater dialogue because they’re not engaged in it. They’re speaking in true monologue. They’re speaking to hear themselves speak. And that leads nowhere. The rest of us are trying to live WITH ONE ANOTHER.
So fuck those close-minded fucks. And vive la dialogue. Vive la révolution large d’esprit.