When I watch the news of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death consume the networks and I witness the outpouring of heartfelt sadness at our loss of his brilliance, I can’t help feeling that somehow we must all be held accountable. Not just for Philip but for every artist and performer baring their soul just for us to take a glimpse into another world as we escape our own.
Yes addiction is dark, scary and messy. Yes there are some who never want to be saved. But I’d like to think that I can say, “I see you and I would miss you if you were gone”.
The venues too need our accountability. News in Wales this week of two highly regarded venues in our Capital city of Cardiff are set to fall under the hammer of budget cuts and government policy. The New Theatre after over 100 years theatrical encounters and St. David’s Hall home to thousands of uplifted moments, both fine institutions of art and performance may soon fall victim of commerce. Will we miss them when they are gone?
Artists are the heart and soul of our community.
The best, the worst and everyone in between take themselves on an incredible and at times tortuous journey of self-learning so that they can expose their hearts, bodies and minds in the show of humanity. They dance to many tunes of life, expressing it and embodying it. They personify the brutal, passionate, meek, vulnerable, beautiful and incredible.
As they hone their skills and master their craft they live through their own real life tragedies and triumphs giving their performances an intricacy of different flavours. Tones and nuances as subtle and as complex as a fine wine matured over many years and over many generations. Their craft transcends the mechanical, their precision becomes a work of art. Their own raw authenticity intertwines with our emotions as they transport us to another dimension beyond stage and screen.
So where are we when these artists come off the stage and slip out the stage door to the mundane of their world? Where are we when they need someone to stand by their side and show that we care even when they are not in the glittering limelight?
Here to entertain you but will we miss them when they are gone?
They are not circus ponies doing tricks for treats just to delight you as you suck on the candy of a momentary pleasure. They are not clowns full of flippant foolishness to make you forget your lack of laughter at home. They are not just fantasy guides helping you navigate the road to oblivion and denial as you escape the mundane and the terrible.
They are angels. Angels sent to reflect the deepest and most intimate parts of our soul. In their dance we can see the gut wrenching pains to the brightest joys. In their song we can hear the tussle between our fearful darkness and the light of life itself. In their eyes, if we are willing to look and see, we can witness the greatest wisdom and understanding lovingly offered up to us in their portrayals of life’s greatest treasures. Their souls infuse our world with the love of love itself.
The very least that we can do is to say thank you.
They are sent to us as a gift sent from the Divine reflecting all that is within us. it is immense and if we have the heart to feel their journey, their performance has the power transform our world deeply and profoundly. Surely we would miss that if they were gone?
Music and magic upon our streets, will we miss them when they are gone?
How often do we swiftly walk past buskers and dancers performing on the streets quickly shifting our gaze as we slip by? In just a few fleeting seconds we escape their eyes in case we feel obliged to empty our pockets. All they need is enough to keep going and pay their own way. The least that we can do is to put a pound in their pot and say thank you.
Amateurs, misfits and wannabes are all walking the freakish plank between foolishness and stardom. They dance when you will not. They sing when you cannot. They get up and play when all you can do is fear mockery and ridicule. The very very least that you can do is to look them in the eyes and say “thank you, I see you” with love and gratitude in your heart.
A street without their song has no joy any more.
Theatres and halls acting out the drama of our community – will we miss them when they are gone?
There is always another potential tragedy that looms on the horizon. The demise of the very houses which once were the invincible bastions of creativity. Will we miss them when they are gone?
We might berate authorities and their decisions to sell and we might wail of the foolishness to let such treasures go. And I agree with you. Democracy does not protect nor bureaucracy keep these treasures sacred. But did we always fulfill our side of the bargain and show up to sell out performances?
Thousands of moments in the playground of entertainment and education. The rough hewn enthusiasm of youth becomes the refined and sophisticated displays of the exceptional and extraordinary. Would we miss them when they are gone?
And I ask you, why is home-grown never good enough?
An artist’s life is a treacherous journey through the maze of all the extremes of our human stories. It is full of pitfalls, excessive vulnerability that strips them bare to the bones of our most challenging emotions. Our most challenging emotions that they embody with love and care. Explorers in the human psyche they play with their own beings as willingly as a boxer gets beaten as his opponent thrashes both punch bag and him in the contest of honest survival.
When such talent is on show on red carpet and silver screen the pedestal of their mastery grows tall and fine. We allow it to tower over us in stupendous splendour as we gaze starstruck in awe and wonder.
When seen in the familiar streets of our broken dreams, the very same talent is crushed as readily as the discarded can dumped on the cobbles of jealousy and disappointment. It’s home grown. It can’t possibly ever be good enough.
Is it any wonder then that the most dedicated practitioners of their art secrete their passions away hiding it from the critics who can only ever see their own failings? Is it really such a surprise that they plot their escape running away with their talent packed in their rucksack of unseen hopes and dreams? They believe that they would not be missed if they were gone.
I see time and again talent from Wales bleeding from the green shores of our homeland as it goes on a quest to satiate a hunger to be seen, to be heard and at the very least be acknowledged. I ask why?
We should all be held accountable for the artist’s dreams – I give you a call to action.
We should all be held accountable for the talent around us. Attend the amateur productions, make way for the carnivals and the dance troupes. Fill the community halls, shine light on dusty stages and cobwebbed churches. We should fan the flames of enthusiasm, the gusto and that willingness to have a go.
We should be nurturing talent, preening wings for it to fly. We should be providing a clear run for take off offering assurances they can choose to come back and land safely in our welcoming embrace if things don’t quite go to plan. We should give it a push off the cliff of the unknown with them knowing that we will be proud no matter what, regardless of whether they fall or soar.
We should show up and play our part offering our applause and our willingness to learn from their education. We should be patrons, supporters and praisers of those who practice their dance and their song for the many thousands of hours of falling, failing and trying again.
There are many like Philip in this world battling demons as they perfect their art and put on their displays mirroring who we are. The least that we can do is to laud their successes and hold them when they fall.
Say thank you. Demonstrate that you mean it when you say “I see you”. Through your praise and applause show your appreciation. Above all hold them in your hearts when they are being human, living in their world off stage vulnerable and normal as you and me. Remember that they too have a need to escape, to be loved, to be nurtured and heard as people not stars. They may be the crazy ones with crazy dreams but they matter just as much as me and you. Say thank you and mean it because you will surely miss them when they are gone.
Wales Online article > Arts figures condemn funding cut to key Cardiff venues
Wales Online article > Cardiff cultural venues under threat as subsidies set to be slashed