by Kamalla Rose Kaur
“May I do theater?” David asked when I inquired about what he wished to share with fellow Pacific Northwesterners today.
A swirling array of memories caught me, throwing me back into my childhood and subsequent lifelong awe of David Mason, the actor and theater director.
Playing the role of the late German director, Bertolt Brecht, embodying his spirit and teachings, David explained to a WWU theater class recently:
“…the actor (also the teacher) has to discard whatever means he has learned of persuading the audience to identify itself with the characters which he plays. Aiming not to put his audience into a trance, he must not go into a trance himself.” – Bertolt Brecht
“Practice lucidity.” David challenges us.
“David, what trance do Pacific Northwesterners need to awaken from?” I asked him one day.
There was this strange empty pause. David didn’t say anything. Then suddenly David was falling. I threw myself between David and the floor to break his fall; twisting to stare up into his face, ready to respond to whatever raw truth I might find there.
But David stopped his fall before touching me.
Crouched low, looking around frightened, he whispered to me with alarm, “Sing 3 times fast!”
And then David demonstrated:
“To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock,
In a pestilential prison, with a life-long lock,
Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock,
From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block!” – 3x
(from The Mikado, Gilbert and Sullivan)
I fell over, onto my back, relieved that David was OK, soon clapping my hands and drumming my feet, celebrating his – now intermittent, but legendary – skills at performing tongue twisting patter raps.
The scenery lights slowly faded, and the spotlight around us brightened. I relaxed my body, intensified my awareness; reaching into the lucidity of the moment., that sweet-spot, that space of perfect timing and accord.
“It is a dangerous teaching.” I commented dryly, supine at his feet.
Rolling away and jumping up, I became Maude.
“What a glorious view. Look at the islands!” Maude exclaimed.
“I thought you would like it.” Claude replied, reaching to hold her hand, and then he added softly, “Shall we build our house here, Maude?”
“Oh Claude, yes, yes! I can’t get enough of this view! We will be so happy here!”
“We have worked our whole lives, and now we can retire with enough money to make our dreams come true.” Claude declared contentedly.
I turned back to the spectacular view and studied it again. “It is too bad about the refinery being over there.” I mused wistfully
“Now, Maude, we need factories and industry,” Claude reminded me, patiently, “You know that.”
“Yes, of course. Of course, I know that.” I repeated dutifully.
The scene faded. I shook my head and suddenly remembered to remember to ask David again:
“David, what trance do Pacific Northwesterners need to awaken from?”
David’s contented snores sputtered to a stop. He muttered and grumbled and didn’t look too happy to have his nap disturbed.
“David, what trance do Pacific Northwesterners need to awaken from?” I insisted.
“OK,” David said, “OK!”
He explained it to me slowly, “We are genetic and cultural products of a past which has made us fit to do well something we no longer can, nor wish, to do. We are prize students of a history which has taught us to make mental metaphoric models of the world, models that once worked well and were good. Our intellect, our conceptual and sensory filters, our whole mind-mechanism was evolved and coached by a past which has taught us the wrong things. So we find that what we thought was good is now, and will in the future be, bad.”
“You mean the human species has evolved so far to destroy ourselves and take everyone else with us?” I ventured, eyes widening in dawning comprehension.
“Now Maude, don’t go upsetting yourself unduly. We are building our dream house after all. We deserve that our dreams come true, we have worked so hard.”