...I closely identify wit the need to love and be loved. I regularly brim over with grief and bewilderment at my own loneliness. But ultimately, I'm rooted here in this kind of impoverished exile, because I believe in the work I do, and I see no distinction between what I do and why I do it, and I own the fact that these are crippling standards to maintain. There is no room, realistically, in my cracked and worn-out heart, to fully love another in the way I would need to in order to be so beloved in return. And that's a terribly difficult thing for me to accept.
I just finished a short piece for an evangelical NGO's benefit fundraiser, here in Portland. Compassion First builds and staffs shelters and social agencies for rescued victims of sex trafficking in Indonesia. For all my talk about high moral standards, and how why I do something ought not to be distinct from what exactly is being done, this was an instance where I could happily silence any of my own misgivings about evangelical Christians in SE Asia, particularly as their moral integrity dwarfs mine, the way cedar trees dwarf a patch of scrub grass.
There was very little text, just a handful of statistics supplied by the NGO. There was a small stage, maybe 20 X 20, set in the center of a sea of dinner tables, in the Jantzen Beach Marriott Hotel, which is the kind of sleepy, slightly seedy, down-at-heel corporate establishment that looks like it lost its real luster just after Reagan left office. Seven of us performed a ten-minute piece, that progressed in an arc from playfulness, to violence, to the kind of oppressive sexuality that I necessarily abhor, and, in my professional as well as artistic capacities, I find I spend altogether too much time with (which is another reason why I rely so heavily on Splendid Isolation). All this was thinly veiled in abstracted physical gestural languages, abstracted enough to fit the parameters of our commission, but clear enough to seriously affect our audience, and our own selves.
The Executive Director of Compassion First told us that the main goal in commissioning us, was to give some sense of real faces to the numbing lists of names and numbers. To his credit, the man spoke of how he'd been to an insane number of fundraising banquet functions, and the only ones that had meant anything to him were the ones that had used some form of original, authentic performance to distinguish the reality of their work from the necessary, hollow pageantry of the events themselves. Thus, even as my crypto-Catholic sensibilities were repulsed by the overly earnest, short-sighted and self-centered theological rhetoric typical of the Catholic experience of evangelicals, my instinctively contrarian, anti-establishment artistic self daily grew righteously militant in this cause and these aims.
This is the kind of work I was built for, only I wish there were more of it. And yet it's a matter of no small concern, that I've just effectively wished for more opportunities to perform some seriously fucked-up shit.
Next week is the big PlayWrite Showcase, a big fancy-dress to-do that's a long day of work for me. I won't be performing this time, which is alright, because I will be wrangling writers, hanging lights and getting up onstage to ask for money.
This is, I think, the toughest part of all my non-profit obligations. I exist and I do my work on the sufferance of the idle privileged, those with enough dispensable income to afford not to engage directly with the injustices that assail their consciences. Now, of course I'm grateful for their generosity, but at it's worst I'm made to feel like a servile draught animal, chartered to haul their heavy loads for them. The money is everything, and it's ultimately so little, a pitifully meager resource among a great many others that are far more urgently needed; above all, the need for presence, of mind and heart, real engagement with the real work that needs doing, the kind of unflinching strength and resilience that's beyond price, beyond measure...