Monday, November 28, 2016

Mind the gap

In my early 20s, I lived in a house with four wonderful women. We were all theatre artists, had all moved to DC after graduating college, and were all working different survival jobs while we pursued our dreams. We kept each other sane: cheered each other on through success, consoled each other through challenging times, and hosted the best parties.

There was, of course, a fly in the ointment.

My roommates, all of them, loved The Gilmore Girls. Not just liked it. Loved it. Many a Saturday morning was devoted to binge-watching whole seasons of the TV show, enjoying the heart-warming and witty banter of its protagonists as they lived their lives in the mystical and Hallmark-esque town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut. Saturday mornings being a great time for lazy camaraderie, I would frequently try to join these watching sessions.

Here’s the thing. I hate The Gilmore Girls. That might not be strong enough. I loathe them. I despise them. Even just thinking about the show, I find myself getting riled up.

Which is fine, right? It’s a TV show. My friends love it. I don’t. That should pretty much be the end of it.

It’s not. My emotions about the show don’t allow me to have a live and let live approach with it. When I learn that a friend loves it, I become a little irrational about it. How can a person I love find something so odious to be good? Worse, how can I person I love – how can that person love something I hate?

All this to say, as I spend time in the rehearsal room this week, working on our staged reading of ‘Art’ by Yasmina Reza, I am finding some deep resonances to the work. When Marc says that his sense of self is shaken by Serge’s love of his white painting, I can hear my own disbelief over a friend choosing to spend time with the denizens of Stars Hollow.

At this particular moment in our history, though, I don’t need to look to an early 2000s TV show to see reflections of Marc and Serge around me. The political arena has poured itself into our personal lives, shining a light on places of disconnect between us that we never previously acknowledged. And this new illumination reveals facets of ourselves that make us uncomfortable.
If I’m who I am because I’m who I am, and you’re who you are because you’re who you are, then I’m who I am and you’re who you are. But if I’m who I am because you’re who you are and you’re who you are because I’m who I am, then I’m not who I am, and you’re not who you are. 
A friend of mine recently posted to Facebook that he was so distraught at learning a friend of his voted for Trump that he was re-evaluating both the friendship and his sense of who he understood his friend to be. Other friends – on both sides of the political spectrum – shared their trepidation about going home for Thanksgiving and the political conversations that would arise over the holiday dinner table. In dialog, on social media, and in comment threads of news articles, we can see the gap between who we think we are and who our actions reveal us to be.

In ‘Art’, Serge has bought a painting Marc hates, and it drives a wedge between them. Absurd? Yes. But very very familiar as well.

How do we engage with those closest to us about differences of belief in ways that continue and deepen our relationships rather than shattering them?

Join us this weekend as we tackle this tough, funny, absurd, entirely human play.

'Art' plays Dec 2 at 7pm and Dec 4 at 2pm in the Stonington Opera House.
Each performance will be followed by a community conversation.