Julia Rae Maldonado

The Elephant in Our Pockets

By Julia Rae Maldonado, Company of Actors

Be it Puritans or the Plague, the theatre always seems to be under threat.

I’ve been thinking a lot about one of Today’s dangers – a highly insidious foe which attacks the artist’s very ability to Dream. (You may even have one in your hand right now.) Certainly, it’s important to keep abreast of current events, sure. It’s probably important to answer that e-mail. Immediately. That cat is doing what? I better just click on that. Whenever I have ten minutes, I start gobbling up little niblets of information. Stories reduced to bullet points, “25 Things That…”, 140 Characters! Don’t get me started on all that candy that needs crushing. I tell you, when I have time to kill, I kill it. I really kill it. My forty minute commute? Every minute of it is dead.

This little machine means not a second has to go by without my mind being occupied! This is great. I hardly know myself anymore. I mean, what am I supposed to do? Just sit there and do nothing? I remember about a year ago, I went through a horrible experience. It was this sort of artistic “cleanse” I read about in an actual book. It’s called “Reading Deprivation”. Pretty scary stuff. I hear Julia Cameron has now expanded the exercise and rechristened it Media Deprivation. The idea is you don’t read anything, watch anything, or click anything. For an entire week!
Because apparently, to dip into the unconscious, that spring of unbridled creativity, an artist needs downtime. Like, real downtime. And drama is a medium fueled by conflict and connection. Well! At least we’ve got plenty of conflict. As a society, we seem to feel isolated and crave attention. If you don’t believe me, glance at your Facebook feed.

But before you get too depressed, consider that this barren cultural landscape may be the perfect environment for the theatre to flourish. The success of immersive shows like Here Lies Love, Then She Fell, and Sleep No More prove that theatre-going audiences are starved for direct connection like never before.

As long as we can keep that device in our pockets, sit still, and Dream.

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