Sunday, September 30, 2007

Speaking of Theater

At Cub Foods the other day, I watched a cashier treat a customer with genuine disdain -- really a thoughtful and precise disregard for a customer who appeared to be interrupting the cashier's personal phone call. The customer was elderly and sort professorial, complete with rumpled shirt and shuffling gait. The exchange -- reproduced when she treated me as so much drain muck, too -- made me think again about how art and intelligence walk among us and we never notice!! That cashier could've been giving Saul Bellows change.

Sometimes when I'm an angry driver (okay -- every day), I feel a pang of regret and worry about the person who just heard my horn. Maybe she sat at the red light for two extra seconds because her mother just died. Or this person on the bike is a poet and that's why he's on the wrong side of the road - just dreaming. This is sort of the flip side of the self-important pomp who might say, "do you know who I am!" when faced with lack of respect. Maybe we should assume that the person we're standing next to in the elevator or on the street possesses talents and intelligence that benefit the planet (even if this means we're routinely disappointed).

I was thinking about this because I recently learned something about John, a young man who works in sort of a 'gopher' job at Steppingstone Theatre: he answers the phone, gives opening remarks to groups of school children, sells tickets. For the year that I've been involved with Steppingstone, I've not thought much about John except to note that he's a nice enough and has shown inordinate kindness to my children. Mostly, I've liked him for the latter.

Turns out that John is one of those people feeding the planet ambition and art! In addition to working full time at Steppingstone, he's one of three people who've launched a fledging theater: Walking Shadow Theatre Company. The company writes and stages original, local scripts with a global focus. Mostly, I marveled that the guy who gives kids their tickets at Steppingstone is an accomplished playwright and dedicated artist. Who knew! If we could all spend our evenings this way. I'll never be able to call Steppingstone again without asking John about his real work, inquiring if he's tired from a late night or working on a difficult character.

Anyway. . . don't forget that the guy who bags your groceries may indeed have the next best-selling novel on his laptop. I know, I know. I said there would be routine disappointments. But just maybe.

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