There is a blissful dismissal of logic that comes with being a child. It enables them to be the gorgeous pile of mush that leaped, curious and unbridled out of their mother’s womb and into a world hell bent on making them into what they “should be”. It happens earlier and earlier these days, the domestication of children, but if you browse a playground (that is if you can do so without being dubbed a pedophile) occasionally you come across a group of children locked in a heated debate that sounds something like this:
Kid 1: I gone be a super hero when I get big watch.
Kid 2: What kinna stuper hero you go be?
Kid 1: One dat could fly and a-a-and smash big buildins
Kid 2: Nuh uhn
Kid 1: Uh huh!!!
Kid 2: Nuh uhn Nuh uhn
Kid 1 Uh huh Uh huh!!! But you could be my super hero friend tho
Kid 2: I gone be able to to to PUNCH real hard like da Hulk … GRRRRRRRR!!!!
Kid 1: Les go practice!
Kid 2: Uh K!
And off they go to conquer evil and place bugs in the belongings of unsuspecting peers. Now, while no one can argue with the sheer entertainment value of hipster babies in skinny jeans with their diapers sogging full of recycled Pabst Blue Ribbon formula; One has to confess that the freedom that comes with being a child over the years has been severely compromised. The openness to have a the free range of emotions that guides the process of becoming an emotionally well adjusted adult is squelched. The result, stuffy assed adults too obsessed with not seeming “thirsty” or “messy” to feel. Some medicate either legally or illegally, still others seek alternate means (e.g. cars, homes, clothes etc.) so that to the outside world will think they are A-OK. Meanwhile they are dying on the inside.
I was and quite often still can be guilty of just this. I suspect this is what lead me back to theatre and writing. The ability to play and bring to life the characters that are running around in my head without getting the hell side-eyed out of me by society. Theatre has brought to my life a level of inner freedom, joy and peace that I don’t feel like I’ve ever knew, even during my bittersweet childhood. The first piece read at a play reading I held last evening is “Reasoning”. It was the first vignette written for a show called “The Waiting Place” that I wrote while at UNC Charlotte and is the first complete theatrical piece that I ever had produced. The show gets its name from an excerpt of “Oh the Places You’ll go by Dr. Seuss.” The passage goes:
“The Waiting Place…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a sting of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.”
This past year has contained enough waiting for me to slay father time. While waiting I’ve tried to remain open and blindly hopeful as a child. I’ve not always succeeded, but I’ve remained aware of the message in the waiting. The same type of awareness that allows for the adult eye to see the beauty and depth to Dr. Suess’s message and long for the comfort of it’s rhyme scheme and ridiculous creatures when the adult world seems to scary to confront. I escape back to the freedom of childhood every time I sit at the key board, sit in a dark cinema or theatre, or pick up a good book waiting for my disbelief to be suspended so my imagination can run hi-knee laps around my mind.
A young woman named Ira Yarmolenko was in the original cast of “The Waiting Place”. Tragically, the May after the show went up she was brutally murdered under circumstances that I still struggle to understand. In one of our last conversations we sounded a lot like the two children in my above scenario. We were at the cast party for The Waiting Place” and we almost simultaneously said. “What are you gonna do next.” I’m not sure of what I said, but I’m almost sure the path I’m on now wasn’t even in my trajectory at that point. Ira said, “I don’t know.” and smiled a little. In such a care free self-satisfied way that I thought for sure she’d just figured out the meaning of life. Maybe she did, maybe in that moment her disbelief and any fear had been suspended and she was free to just live.