A stroll through an art gallery, an evening spent at the theatre, the sight of a glorious sunset – these things invite my mind to dance with abandon and wonder.
“Filling the well,” (the seeking out of new sources of inspiration) has long been a part of my artistic process and an essential part of how I find my way through life. Moments spent immersed in another time, place or space often bring clarity to whatever I’m grappling with in the present (writing-related or otherwise.) We humans like to make sense of things, to put ideas and events into perspective, to find order in chaos. The scientist spends her evenings fretting over new ways of looking at the universe. The doctor longs for pathways of treatment to mend the sick – better, faster, more humane. A mother wishes she could understand her daughter’s sudden change of heart. A father wants to fix everything in his home, in his life, in the world, but doesn’t know where to start. Who knows what solutions might arrive in the radiant pink of illuminated clouds or the words of a long dead poet? Time spent with wonder is never wasted.
One place I’ve gone, time and again to find such inspiration is the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts. No matter the occasion for my visit, I always come away filled with fresh thoughts and new plans. This past Saturday night was no exception. Beautiful weather graced the opening of Two Planks and a Passion Theatre Company’s latest productions – an inventive twist on Shakespeare’s As You Like It, and a breathtaking adaptation of The Iliad told around a campfire – setting the stage for the stuff of dreams.
As You Like It is a play that’s long been dear and near to my heart, from the moment I first sang Roger Quilter’s setting of “Under the Greenwood Tree,” to the weeks I spent helping to shepherd a production of it at the Chicago Waldorf School. It is a brilliant example of the Bard’s talent for mixing razor-sharp wit with profound truths. Philosophy butts heads with poetry. The forest of Arden beckons to those who are in need of escape. Identities (and hearts) are lost and found. At its heart, As You Like It is a conversation (between the players and the audience) about assumptions and love. Who is one meant to love? By what constraints? By tradition, by social standing, by gender, by lust, by the heart? Rosalind might argue, “love is love, whatever form she takes.” A timeless truth, indeed.
Build a fire and everything changes. Shadows appear, new voices emerge. The flames foster intimacy and the stories told around them reflect our darker, wilder, monstrous, fragile, heroic selves. A perfect venue for a telling of The Iliad. At a time when we still find ourselves wondering why we go to war, The Iliad leads us into a world where the gods, in their folly, can provide no good answers. When the chanting and marching and howls of lamentation have ended, we are, above all else, human. A father wishes to bring home the body of his son. Those left behind grieve the loss of friends, family, and lovers. Breath by breath, their sorrows, our sorrows, are the same.
This isn’t a review so much as an invitation. These fine players are my friends, and they have also been my muses. I encourage you to witness their stories and their talent.
Go to the mountain this summer. Fill your well.
For more info. on performance times and tickets, visit the Two Planks and a Passion website.