Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Missed Connections (Hungary)

Settled on the floor at Gatwick airport, huddled up next to an outlet with my computer in my lap, as commuter feet march by me in all directions. MA615 to Budapest is delayed by an hour, and I’m uncharacteristically unfazed. I’m not even annoyed by the prospect of having to spend the whole night in Hungary after I miss my connecting flight, as I almost certainly will. Apparently, I’m not in any hurry.

Let’s not think too hard about what it means that I’m starting this trip with a missed connection. Foreshadowing is just a literary device, right?

All joking aside, that’s obviously my biggest (perhaps only) fear going into this thing: “what if we don’t connect?” What happens when you give yourself an entire year to meet someone, or many someones, and you come back having only scratched the surface? Ticked boxes and snapped photos without actually changing or being changed by anyone? Without having made new friends, without loving new people?

It dawns on me now that the whole “collaborative creation” brief is just a sneaky ploy, another way of upping my dopamine supply (and hopefully everyone else’s) in the non-zero-sum game that is life. Because deep down I know that when people build together, when they create together, they love each other. That’s all love is, really, a sort of bewildered excitement and gratitude as you join forces with other people—superheroes, each with superpowers so different from your own—to make something bigger and better than you could have ever dreamed up on your own. A life, a family, a play, anything.

We ran devising workshops with military vets in California last year, when we were building “Nobody’s Home.” We spent a week on the phones—in my hometown, mind you, where I spent my whole life and speak the native language—and no one came the first weekend. Another week on the phone and we got 4 participants. But what a 4! And we came away from that month with new friends.

I guess…this blog is a funny thing. An attempt at some next step. Or even a quantum leap. Because I know I can spend a month on the phone if need be, learn Arabic if need be, find even just one or two war veterans if it comes to that and build something together…and if I come away having learned something new, felt something new, I’ll be satisfied. But that kind of connection is a given, it’s organic, it’s what happens when you parallel play. How do you share what happens in Beirut between an upstart artist and some LAF vets with a playwright, then a cast, and finally a theatergoing public in London? What can remain of the original impulse? How does it transform, and what comes out the other side?

All great questions to mull over on a sleepless night in a Hungarian airport departure lounge, I’m sure.