Actors performing alone. A director editing in solitude. And audiences listening at home. Is Alison Wong’s visceral audio production of Cloudless the definitive play of the pandemic era?
It is with a simultaneously hopeful and heavy heart that I wish you a happy World Theatre Day. The emptiness of our building is matched by an emptiness in my heart – a space that yearns to be filled by the connectivity and community that the theatre brings.
On last year’s World Theatre Day, we were at the dawn of this pandemic. Reading my 2020 World Theatre Day message, I am brought back to its early days: the uncertainty, the anxiety, the adrenaline. In some respects, the pandemic has unfolded in ways that we imagined. That message and our subsequent Guiding Principles for the pandemic have informed how we have proceeded over the past year. But, ultimately, COVID-19’s impact on every aspect of our lives is beyond what we could have envisioned. We knew the impact was going to be big, but we didn’t yet know the specifics. To all of you who have experienced loss, we send you love.
This World Theatre Day, we find ourselves in the pandemic’s twilight. As we begin to envision our return to the theatre, I am wondering how we can integrate the experience of the past year. This pandemic must be more than “the year when everything stopped.” It is impossible to define exactly how the impact of the pandemic will manifest itself on and off our stages. However, I can share a little bit about how I believe I have personally changed over the past twelve months and how it has shaped my thoughts about our return.
Back in the summer, I decided to pursue a certificate in holistic health. At the time, it seemed like a productive way to spend a long winter shut indoors. I am certainly not looking to become a holistic health practitioner, but I have appreciated the space during this extended period of isolation to dive deeply into the inner workings of my body. I suspect that many of you have gone on your own inner journeys as well.
Holism is based on a few key concepts. One of them is the notion of interconnection; the idea that everything in the world is made up of interdependent systems. If one part is not functioning, then all the other parts will be affected. A consequence of this notion is that a holistic approach puts emphasis on the relationship between things. Each interconnected system can only be understood by its relationship to the whole. In looking at these relationships, another key concept emerges: balance. Optimal health can only be achieved by gaining balance between the various needs and outputs of the intersectional systems that make up the fullness of our existence.
By recognizing how interdependent our world is, its individual components take on more significance and a new level of responsibility emerges – one that demands considering the larger picture and how one fits inside of it. It can be overwhelming but, fortunately, there is a practical tactic for addressing this: reciprocity. The practice of exchange for mutual benefit. This can bring us to a more balanced relationship with ourselves and our environment and create a healthy state of being.
These concepts are spilling over into all areas of my life, including my thoughts about our theatre and its future. As we chart our return to the theatre, I am asking myself: what does reciprocity look like to us? How can we shift our relationships away from traditional one-sided transactions to more co-creative exchanges between artists, partners, audiences, and communities? How can we rebuild a theatre that is not for me or for you but for us?
We are in the final lap of this marathon. This lap can be the hardest, but the finish line is on the horizon. I wish you all much strength, patience, and good health for the coming months. I cannot wait to rebuild our beloved theatre, together.
Happy World Theatre Day.
Brendan Healy, Artistic Director