I find it very fitting that this post is taking place on Earth Day given all the volcanic activity over the last week. While I was amazed by Eyjafjallajokull’s ability to bring most of Europe’s airspace to a standstill, I didn’t really think I would spend most of the last few days talking about it. Boy, was I wrong. My current day job is at an off-Broadway theater that focuses on work for families and kids. The programming is incredibly innovative- music, art, dance and theatre performances from all over the world. And the show about to start up is a joint company from Johannesburg, South Africa and London, England and they are flying to New York from (you know where this is going, don’t you?!) London. Or should I say, not flying in from London.
This is sad for many reasons, mostly because the show looks incredible and I want them to be able to do as many performances as possible, but also because my coworkers and I are contacting hundreds of families to move them out of the two cancelled performances. It’s been a better process than I thought; mostly because I decided that I would not let it suck. It’s a flipping volcano so what could we do?!
The actions from two patrons have really stayed with me and I found them to be such an interesting reminder of the vastly different ways to look at the world. I called one sweet lady who had a single ticket to a cancelled performance. She sounded like a very lovely older woman and responded to the shocking event with the comment “Well, I guess this really is far reaching. How amazing.” I don’t think she meant that a volcanic eruption is amazing but I think she saw this cancelled show as some kind of strange connection to what a large part of the world is going through right now. I imagined her sitting in her apartment on the East Side, shifting around her theater ticket because of a volcano. She was understanding and almost… what’s the right word… perhaps it’s intrigued or interested. And maybe it will make the show all the more special or exciting because of the off stage drama surrounding it.
Then someone else spoke to a gem of a woman who was super angry about her plans being disrupted. She said that they bought these tickets in advance and made arrangements and we were messing everything up. She actually said “Why can’t you get your act together?!” Now in full disclosure we did initially cancel the entire weekend and then reinstated three performances when they reopened the airports but this switch did not change her situation, her performance was always cancelled. And instead of being an understanding member of the human race, she was pissed because the volcano ruined her social outing. It was all about her, not the hundreds of thousands trapped in various countries and not the idea that our environment is becoming alternatingly more and more fragile and volatile. What a missed opportunity to see how your life is interconnected with so many others all across the globe. This would have been one of those crazy family stories, something her kids could have told for years to come. And maybe if she had stopped for a second and thought about her calendar she might have figured out another performance to attend instead of simply spewing venom and demanding a refund (which we were more than happy to give her). And that’s probably what made me so sad in listening to the retelling; her family missed out on the chance to see an amazing piece of theater by a company that flew through volcanic ash to be here. How cool is that?!
Lately I have been thinking about why I do what I do, vocationally I mean. There have been a few occasions recently where someone asks why I’m an actor/writer. I love being a storyteller and helping to illuminate the human condition. Because I believe that we are not that different and by opening up your heart and your mind to all the world holds (the beautiful and the horrific) we can truly find a way to live together in peace and make the world a better place than we found it. Yes, that is very hippie-dippy and feel free to mock me. But it’s Earth Day and I am all about the love. And the hope. And the belief that we are capable of more, of seeing the wonder. Of thinking “well that’s far reaching” just like the woman on the phone. I’m going to head out to the NYC celebration on my lunch break, care to join me?
DREAM ROLE: (I don’t know if he’s reading this but) something written by Jim Tierney