A Yoga Practice asks over and over that we grow the muscle of ‘compassionate observer.’ There are other practices, completely off the mat that offer, and encourage this resilient growth. The one I encountered last weekend was ‘on the boards.’ It surprised me that sitting in a dark theater became a great Practice. Observing actors inhabit characters who badly needed resiliency, but hadn’t yet learned much of it, and were therefore struggling to stay emotionally afloat in difficult relationships, with a story line that twisted them every which way, was a wonderful way to observe not only their lack of practice, but mine own. The play offering this emotional maze is at New Rep in Watertown, showcasing the playwright, Steven Dietz’s work, Rancho Mirage.
The power of theatre, that conspiracy between actor and audience, between light and dark, real and unreal offer wonderful gifts for practicing. As actors move in and out of their story, surveying their battlefields of bad behavior, I consider mine own and observe the playground where commiseration, judgment, and empathy square off. But it’s an objective playground. Unlike the actors, I can engage, or withdraw. I may not have control over my feelings but being the observer, I can measure how much I’m willing to expand and forgive, or the degree of grudge needing to drop away. If lucky, the story brings up personal minefields where I see old patterns, and can review my failure, safe in the 12th row. We never know how much hearts can hold, or how resilient we need to be. Practicing is good.
Many feel life is a ‘Theatre of the Absurd,’ where making sense has gone the way of the Dodo. Emotions are absurd, unless they’re OURS. Theatre reminds us not only of our absurd humanity, but that the world’s a stage for a very good reason. We take turns being actors or audience. We stand on the boards in full light, or we sit in the dark. Either way, what wonderful conundrums of magic in which to grow absurd, resilient hearts, and practice our Practices. Thank you Steven Dietz. Thank you New Rep.