A masked woman takes the Zoom stage. She is elegant and sparkling. The space behind her is adorned with masks of all different shapes and sizes. When she speaks, it is in a welcoming voice.
My good people.
We are gathered here to celebrate one of our oldest and most cherished art forms. We are here to participate in the art of living stories performed for a live audience. The theater, my darlings, the theater. We have gathered with the instructions that tonight we will explore masks in all their many forms. I brought all of mine. We are also here to conduct an experiment to see if we can have a collective experience while remaining safer at home.
Some of us are here because we made art to contribute to this ceremony. Some of us are here to witness it. Each of us has a role to play tonight and each of us is here for a reason. A call went out. It reached you. And you. And you. It also reached me. So we all rose to the challenge and we said yes. We said yes to taking a risk and yes to sharing ourselves on this virtual stage.
We said yes because we are artists and we must make art. We all have voices that have something to say about this moment and we all had the courage to follow the voice that said loud and clear SHOW UP for this one.
2020 has broken our hearts. It has weighed heavily on our spirits. It’s showing us things about being an American that we have avoided looking at and confronting for so long. Our failing systems. The corruption revealing itself in the highest levels of our government. The racism that weaves itself through the fabric of our country. Anger. Rage. All of the hurt. Pain. Injustice. Inequality. Isolation. Lost jobs and vanished incomes. Sickness. Uncertainty. Death.
So much has been taken away from each and every one of us. None of us remains untouched. It is hard. It weighs heavily on us. This sucks.
2020 has shattered our perceptions about everything we thought we knew about life in the before times. And it has plunged us deeply and irreversibly into the NOW times.
This might not be a completely bad thing. We were not called here to mourn our losses, after all. No. We were called here to explore, to witness, and to create.
Now, I don’t know about you but the theater was my first love. Since you are here tonight, I have a sneaking suspicion that it was yours as well. The best and most useful gift that life as a theater artist has given me is the ability to milk the power of being fully and completely immersed in the moment.
Oh, yes. THE MOMENT. You know the one I’m talking about. The one you feel with your soul. The one that can’t be faked and makes your heart beat thump harder when it starts happening.
I was called here tonight to cast the spell that will lead you there and now it is time to begin.
My dear people, do me a favor and put your hands over your heart, like this, and take a deep breath into that space.
Can you feel it? It’s subtle. Almost imperceptible if you don’t know what you’re looking for. But if you’re very still and very quiet, the real reason why we were all called to be here tonight begins to reveal itself.
Keep your hands on your heart. Can you feel it? Can you feel it tingling its way into your body? Close your eyes. Feel your heart. Feel your electricity. Feel your aliveness. Let it slowly begin to fill you.
Yes, my friends, yes. There it is. It’s getting stronger.
Sit with that feeling. Open your ears, open your mind, open your heart, and let these words wash over you.
We were all called here tonight to connect with our power. Our gifts. Our strengths. Our confidence. Our passion. Our drive to participate in an art form that connects and brings people together. Art that unites rather than divides. Art that doesn’t shy away from intense feelings and emotions. Art that moves and breathes. That has fangs to show you what’s real and a soul to connect you to what matters.
You, yes, you, sitting in front of your screen, hands on your chest, listening to these words, you are here because you are being called to rise up. In spite of the hurt and the pain. The wrongs that have persisted for so long. You are being called to rise up because of it. Because we don’t want to live this way anymore. This is your invitation to harvest the seeds of your potential and plant them with tenderness exactly where they belong. You know the spot. You’re already there.
Deep, deep, deep inside your heart.
A big, brown mask that looks like a tree spirit went to Mardi Gras joins the woman on the Zoom stage.
The first humans, our ancestors, discovering this planet for the first time. Learning how to survive, figuring out things that they had never experienced before.
What did they do to fight back their fear of the unknown? To keep the dark of the night at bay? They gathered around their fires and told each other stories. Stories to pass the time. Stories to explain the world around them. Stories to teach, stories to learn. Stories to make each other laugh. Stories to make them feel like they belonged. When things were right, when things were wrong, when they were scary or confusing, stories were what they turned to over and over again.
Imagine these ancestors now. See them in your mind. The oldest ones. The ones from the very beginning. See their fires. Their circles. Their masks. See their bodies moving, dancing. Hear the beat of their drums, it’s the same rhythm that your heart beats out now. Feel them now, my friends, feel them and see them. Our ancestors are dancing and tonight they are dancing for you.
Tonight we have come together to share stories, just like we always have, so that we can laugh and cry. So that we can feel all of the feelings and know we are not alone. We came here to connect and to belong.
The art of human connection can reach across time and space, if you let it.
Tonight, let it happen. Stay in your open heart. Stay in your open mind. Stay in the moment and allow this magic to transform you, even if the transformation lasts only as long as this event. Moments come and moments go. The curtain rises on a stage, a story happens, and the curtain closes and it all fades back into memory.
My time with you is drawing to a close. We’ve dropped into the moment together. We’ve turned on our imaginations. We’ve experimented with reaching out beyond ourselves and connecting with the pictures words written on a page and spoken from the heart can put into our imagination.
My fellow performers, the spell is cast. The stage is set. My gift to you is this container of attention and intention to be the home for your work tonight. I showed you my power.
It’s time for you to show us yours.
Living in America in the Autumn of 2020 feels like a free fall that has no end in sight. It feels like we are left alone to drift in unknown territory. Sometimes floating, sometimes falling, sometimes feeling out of control.
Tonight we come together because art is our anchor. It’s our North Star, our map and our guide. It reminds us how to live and why. Tonight we join together because we are done with drifting aimlessly. We’re here to stand in our power and to share our art. Tonight we pause the free fall and recognize that THIS is home. It always has been and it always will be.
We’re coming home.