If you haven’t studied people and life around you, you can’t begin to know how to create theater. Theater explores humanity – the inner workings of relationships – how we communicate and relate to ourselves, each other, and the world around us. If you cannot begin to exercise empathy, you cannot be an artist. Artists must think and feel deeply. They must makes astute observations and explore a multitude of conclusions. Theater artists are like anthropologists in that way. Both study humanity from many different angles, and seek to paint a colorful picture of it.
If we only ever pass judgements about what we see and who we encounter, we will never have the privilege of exploring the complexities. If we stay hidden away in our own worlds, we will never even make contact with the surface.
We must always be aware and remain open. Healthy boundaries are necessary, but are different from iron gates. Do not restrict your experience of life by keeping your gates locked. Peek through the bars, perhaps reach through and feel the air on the other side. Is it so different? If it feels safe, or at least not dangerous, take out your ornate iron key and step out from your sanctuary. Feel the leaves crackle beneath your bare feet, caress the gnarled bark of an ancient oak tree, run through the forest until you see a light shining – it is attainable. Dash madly and wildly and when you get there, wrap someone in a hug – they probably need it. Hold their hands firmly but gently in your own, sit them down in an old, rickety rocking chair and ask them to tell you their life story.
Listen carefully and intently. Create a mental image for each of their improvisational, yet seemingly well-crafted words. Reflect back what you hear, but do not try to control the story or the outcome. In witnessing their openness, you will begin to open yourself. You will see glimmers of the interconnectedness of humanity. It will lift your spirits and entice you to seek more and more opportunities just like this one, yet vastly different, because no individual’s story is exactly the same.