Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Freedom of the New

I just returned from seeing Undine, at Theater Off Jackson. Following the wonderful performance by Faith Helma, there was a panel discussion moderated by Brendan Kiley of The Stranger. The subject was the balance between creating new works (Undine was a new work) against the presentation of older, established works in Seattle.

I don't have much to say at length about theater -- I'm a baby actor by the standards of these people; definitely not one of the cool kids playing at the local fringe theaters.

What I do have is an observation, spurred by the statement of a young actor who sat behind me. He does new works because he wasn't getting cast. He didn't fit into the "suits" people expected him to fill (as a side note, he was also asian).

I could see the value in this.

Also, it comes to me that the draw of both presenting and seeing new work, for me, is that -- get this -- there is nothing to compare it to. True, that does not free the performer from putting forth good work, from breaking their hearts and backs for the audience. What it does do is free the audience from comparison to how someone did it before. They aren't seeing a presentation of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and comparing it to a previous run at a fringe or established theater. They are free to experience the new, here, now, without the burden of past experience seeing that performance.

One of the things I have marveled in, and discussed with other actors, in doing new things is hearing us/them fret about getting a word in a line wrong. Letting that meta-worry get in the way of craft. When that happens, I remind them, and myself, that the audience has not read the script. They have never seen it before. Therefore you can free yourself of your petty fears and give them the best, the most fearless, the most risky performance of your life.

Then again, the are taking a chance on coming to see you.

That is the freedom and the risk of of new work.

And that is why it's worth doing.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Your Baggage, Your Fears, You Carry Them

I went riding with my wife the other day. We took our scooters over the 520 bridge in Seattle. It was her first freeway trip on the new scooter after a couple weeks of riding around town. It seemed about time to stretch the legs of the new Scarabeo 200, seeing as we have been talking about taking longer road trips this spring and summer.

Upon posting the news of our little adventure (minor really in the realm of experienced riders), on Facebook, she received a lot of cheering and support from her friends.

However, one of our concerned friends posted this:

"You're scaring the shit outta me. This is not good. Sorry I'm not supporting you're adventuring, but i think scooters on freeways afre a terrible idea. i wouldn't even drive a SmartCar on the freeway"

Two more pipe up in support of the fearful friend.

Now, as a motorcyclist of over 35 years with over 300,000 riding miles under me, I am not surprised at this reaction. Many non-riders have reactions like this.

If they aren't our friends they spout off about the dangers of motorcycling, calling us crazy, or organ donors and the like.

If they are our friends, they express concern about our safety, but the message is basically the same and it comes from the same place.

Where do these opinions or concerns come from? They come from the speaker's own fears.

Now, I've gotten used it, being exposed to it my entire riding career. I've smiled and said nothing at times. At others I've tried to educate. When I read this concern by a friend, I was at a different place this time.

That place was, "Oh, fuck you."

By the way, I mean that in the friendly, at the bar, just had a drink, calling a friend on their bullshit, New York, "Fuck You."

Why so direct and crude? Why not have more patience with it? Allow me to elaborate.

None of these people will be convinced by my 30 years of accident free riding (yes, I had two accidents in the first two years). Their story won't change if I show them my riding gear (full armored suit, full face helmet, good gloves and boots). They won't be swayed by the fact that I am a former Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructor. Often, they will continue to rail against the dangers of riding, some of them as they roll down the road in their single occupancy SUV, talking on their cell phone, not paying attention to the task of driving.

The speaker was scared. They said so. That was not good as far as they were concerned. They were so scared that, in fact, they had to apologize for not supporting our "adventuring" while going on to condemn it even more. Then they went on to tell us that riding scooters (even very road worthy scooters with motorcycle level brakes and suspension) on freeways was a terrible idea. Why they wouldn't even do what we did in one of the safest compact cars on the planet.

Oh yeah, you bet.

I love you my friend but, sincerely, Fuck You.

Why do I say that?

I don't see a reason to live my life based on whether someone else is scared about something I'm doing.

I don't see a reason to change my behavior, my adventures, just because someone else judges it "not good". Don't people do that to us all the time? Why do we forget how it feels when we are doing it to others?

If you are going to apologize then apologize for what you did, not to excuse what you have just said, as you go and continue with your diatribe against my decisions.

If you are going to tell me that something I am doing is a bad idea, then I'll weigh my own experience against yours. In this case, you have been riding two wheeled vehicles exactly how long, how many miles, with what training?

Because, while I acknowledge that the message may have come out of emotional concern, even from a friend, the manifestation was one of foisting the speakers fear on us.

That's right; foisting their fear, asking us to carry their baggage, dumping it on us while my wife posted about a triumph, an accomplishment in her riding career. In other words -- raining on our parade.

My friend, well meaning though they may be, should have either kept their fears to themselves or gone and seen a therapist about them.

As my wife and I talked about the response, my beautiful, wonderful, who I could not imagine living my life without, girl asked me, "So, would you have any regrets if I were killed while riding?"

"No," I said. "I'd be heartbroken but not regretful. Not if you were doing what you love. I would only regret if I didn't take the opportunities I have to help you learn to be a better rider so you can enjoy it and be safer."

As I sit here thinking about it, I'd likely ride to her funeral.

So, thanks for your concerns, friend but, we can't carry your fears right now. We're busy.

"Sometimes, living is more than just breathing in and out." -- Dave Svboda