Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Handicapped Society

For those who haven't subscribed to Naked City Wichita yet - or have not picked up an issue - here is an article I wrote for it for May. Very relevant for anyone who attends any art function. Not so relevant for Retro/Vintage purposes, however it makes one think about what we did before we had all of this technology swimming around us. Did we have a longer attention span in Mid-Century America?

Our Handicapped Society: Why can't we break free of tech?

When contemplating the concept of Velo, coming to a conclusion on its relation to theatre proved difficult. Velo: transportation, movement, momentum. It was when I was out riding my bike that I, rather ironically, stumbled upon the affinity, or rather the discord, between the two concepts. There are skid marks on the pathway of the theatrical arts; it is experiencing a stop force from society. Perhaps this is not due to lack of interest. Rather this road is congested by the inordinate amounts of activity smacking our senses from every direction.

Recently, a dear friend of mine brought a plus one to see me in a performance. It was brought to my attention that this "plus one" was not versed in the intimacy of her surroundings. Another patron informed me, she texted intermittently throughout both acts, all the while ignoring the action on the stage. Commentating, not on the performance, but rather on the 160-character conversation glowing in her lap. Disappointment did not strike me so fierce as it's cousin sadness. Has technology handicapped my generation, or rather with the influx of older adults texting, all generations from spending 45 minutes away from the temptation of connectivity? Before many events, theatre or otherwise, a reminder resonates to patrons attending the performance to turn off cellular devises; this has become necessary as it is painfully ignored by many.

Breathing theatre, the air is ripe with the opportunity of possibility. What makes theatre living and 'not dead,' as many of its adversaries would have you believe, is the interaction that is required between each of the artists and between the spectacle and the spectator. When attending the theatre, the patron is a participant, whether volunteering for this duty or not. Perhaps not literally or knowingly, but the actors, technicians and director are biting their nails praying that their audience is going to react, audibly, to their weeks of labor. The theatre is interactive; the heat of the audience enlivens the actors. It can transform a treacherous technical rehearsal week into an energized opening weekend. The air has the potential to be so riff with tension due to the moment to moment human interaction one experiences. It's like ripping out one wall of a house and watching a couple tear each other apart, the exhibitionists respectfully oblivious.

There are other impediments: banal behaviors not thought about twice in the modern cinema. The lights go out, the music comes up and a cornucopia of decayed decorum arise; the blessing of the dark theatre. Another possibility for the low audience count in local theatre, because during the movies you have the freedom to be inconsiderate to your fellow patrons, because they bestow on you the same courtesy, or lack thereof. Regardless of venue, etiquette has been eradicated from our behavioral vernacular. All theatres, cinematic and theatrical, are still not immune to loud, obnoxious commentary, tenacious texters or Internet junkies. The chronic texting and Internet usage is restricting our society from the potential advancement theatre offers.

Technology, with all of its benefits, has also become a comical speed bump in how we communicate, feel, act and behave. Traffic tickets or removal from a movie theatre are acknowledged as penance for this technological addiction. Young adults cannot communicate with each other without their crutch: the crippling behavior of texting. Phones singing their melodies during board meetings are being assimilated into normalcy. There is an endless list of reasons to set down the newest contraption on the market and pick up a book, attend a play, see a concert. What will end up happening to the ignored actors on the stage is thisthey will swallow the vexation they feel and take what they can get.

I have hope that society will not allow itself to hinder its potential acceleration to greater heights. Cannot we not transport ourselves to a new dimension of thinking without leaving something on vibrate in our laps? Civilizations have paved avenues with grandiose ideas formed through creative and artistic means. There were no iPhone beeping interruptions when on the cusp of the development of social reform. While I do advocate technological progress, I must press that we do not let it prohibit creative and artistic momentum, without which technology will be obsolete.

----------------- Copyright: May 2011 Issue: Naked City Wichita -----------------

Any Thoughts on this in Vintage America?


  1. I would like to think we could move past the distraction of technology, but I think in some ways we're doomed. I cannot hold a conversation with friends or family anymore without the constant distraction of a blackberry/iphone/ipad. Whatever happened to real conversation? It saddens me greatly.

  2. Me too - I'm glad I'm not the only one. People can have an entire conversation in text message but throw them together in real life, and nothing happens!