I recently returned from an 11-day road trip through the Alps and central Europe. Lucky, lucky me. Early in the trip, in a moment of complete accident and profound delight, I found myself face-to-face with a wall. Well, the surviving bit of the southern facade of a wall. It's the most impressive part of the remains of the Roman Theatre in Aosta, Italy, built some time around 25 BC.
There I was on this trip, this vacation, this break - in which I had roundly decided NOT to seek out theatre, not to try and see any shows, to allow myself some time to nurture the human side of the artist, and yet there I was. There was something inevitable about it.
Another lovely part of the discovery of this wall was that I was travelling (along with my spouse) with three friends who I met doing theatre, Savage Umbrella veterans Amber Davis (current Artistic Advisory Board member, former Company Member, The Awakening, Leaves, Ex-Gays, The Golden Carp at Night of New Works), Danny Davis (pianist Christmas Carol Finale I and CCF II, The Awakening) and Jami Jerome (The Ravagers, Penelope workshop). Being in this ancient site of theatre with close friends that I have made and will make theatre with? As the Mastercard I charged the trip on would claim: priceless. Here we were in the face of (yes, all caps) THEATRE HISTORY. We danced, we did lunges (I don't know - car trips make people weird), we laughed and were awed. We even recited some snippets of monologues and musicals: the place seemed to call for it.
Our time wandering the ruins inspired many a car conversation during the trip about each of our relationship with theatre, with art, with taking time, with nurturing ourselves, with the relevance of theatre today, the best shows we've ever seen, and the necessity of theatre.
This inevitability. This crazy chance. This awe. I'm still processing, but I've landed upon two conclusions so far:
1. While trying to separate the artist self from my "other" self, the two kept combining, intermingling, speaking one to the other. Maybe it's actually akin to trying to separate your kidneys from your lungs - they're different and perform different functions, but you're not whole without both of them working together.
2. There is no question to me that theatre is neither dead nor is it dying. Napster? Nobody does that anymore. Netflix? Does it have 50 years in it before we move on to the next best thing? But that wall. That wall was built as an important part of that town over 2,041 years ago. And it was preserved - through natural disasters, through wars, through industrialization - because it was important. In 2011 the people of the Aosta Valley started using the remains of that theatre for music and live performance again. Because though the format changes, the heart of theatre - the necessity of story telling - keeps on beating. It keeps on, on, on. Tha-thump, tha-thump, tha-thump, ad infinitum.