Stranger than Angels,

published at 8:03pm on 03/14/07

I have recently watched two movies that have made me think. That have made me realize once again that there is power in the arts. That have made me understand that we have the ability to think, to feel, to hurt and laugh, all without leaving the comfort of our chairs. And they have made me understand, once again, that these feelings are important. That we, as people, are supposed to feel. Are supposed to think. Are supposed to laugh. And are supposed to hurt. That these are all part of being human. Of being people. Of living life. And that the moment we forget that there is beauty in the world outside of what we ourselves can produce, then we have missed out on the best part of life.

I used to be involved, desperately involved, in theatre. I grew up around art. Oh, not to the extent that many people do, attending the opera, visiting museums, with nightly conversations about expressionism, modernism, or any other -ism that they may be exposed to through their education or their family life. No, my involvement with the arts was in the form of my involvement, from my early teenage years through college, in the production of live theatre. The art of telling stories, on a stage, to an audience. To attend a performance of a powerful piece of theatre is to give yourself over to a story, to empathize with the characters, and to go home with a bit more understanding of humanity (or possibly the lack thereof).

When I was in college, I was involved with a production of the play Love Letters. Traditionally staged as simply a reading, our production was a full-blown play, the two actors performing their roles on opposite sides of the stage, without scripts, in full character. The story is one of unrealized love as it traces the lives of two people, from childhood to death. At the close of the play, we would drop the lights to blackness and in the darkness, begin playing a Sarah McLachlan song. And in that darkness, under the melancholy melody, an audience member would begin to cry. And fueled by the raw emotion of that first, a second would follow, sobbing in the darkness. It was inevitable, it was predictable, and it reinforced in me the ability for the arts to reach in to our chests and rip out our hearts. And it reinforced in me the idea that we, as audiences, do this willingly.

We all like stories. We like telling them and we like hearing them. It is easy in the face of the stories that we are told every day on weekly dramas, on the evening news, on summer blockbusters, to forget that the purpose of these stories, is to learn a bit more about life and the world in which we live. As we gorge on the cultural equivalent of junk food, it is easy to assume that our culture has lost the ability to tell a good story. A compelling story. An important story. A heart-wrenching story. But sometimes, as the credits roll and the lights come up, as the players take a bow and the audience leaves the building, we leave thinking. We leave looking at life through a different lens. We leave wondering, pondering, hoping, and inspired. Or merely introspective. But we leave changed. Not just amped up on adrenaline, and not just chuckling, but truly moved.

Whether or not our future actions are affected by these influences, we remain changed. With the recognition of humanity in the world, we are made that much more complete.

If you have the chance, go see Snow Angels and Stranger Than Fiction. I think you’ll like them.

Filed under: Observations

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