The other night I had a dream that I went to San Francisco, and that I ran into Martin Dockery. I had gone there with the sole purpose of seeing his show, The Surprise, which is showing in San Francisco. In the dream I never made it to the show, there were many obstacles: a friend in need, something about eating sushi, and a great lawn that went on forever, but in the distance I could see Martin pacing the balconies of many apartment complexes that looked like motels, rehearsing his lines. At one point he yelled out to me: “you should come, it’ll be good.” I knew his invite was genuine, I also knew the show was going to sell out, but in the dream I never made it. What does the dream tell me, well I’m pretty sure it’s that I would have liked to have gone to see the show, but there were obstacles like distance, personal strife and other things.
I woke up thinking of Martin, and how great it was to meet him along with many other story tellers that I met while on the road. Although, sitting in the RV with Martin, Mary and Eleanor (from Inviting Desire) playing three truths and a lie was a memorable experience to get to share with Martin, (who is a so-so liar, but better than myself) it was just as memorable an experience to witness Martin’s show Wanderlust.
When I was studying theatre there was a lot of focus on the “play” as the linear performance, characters interacting with one another, the play is in the action, and the interaction of two or more people. This is a wonderful form of theatre to perform and to watch, but we never talked much of the role of the actor as the story teller. I do remember one professor, Bill Johnson, by far one the most influential teachers in my theatre life, speaking about the actor as the Shaman, and that is how I view the story teller. Alone on the stage telling the story, a story, personal yet also universal.
Story telling can be delivered in many ways, like TJ Dawe, who doesn’t really act so much as speaks to the audience like a well rehearsed poet or writer, or Ryan Paulson, who adds music to his story telling, Storm Large, a local performer here in Portland, her latest show Crazy Enough, is her personal journey that utilizes the craft of storytelling and music. Then there is Martin who talks directly to the audience, but he is also employing the craft of acting. Physically, with rehearsed movements, he is painting a picture with his action. In Wanderlust which I got to see in Winnipeg during the fringe was a story of a man looking to discover himself in Africa. The story of the journey, to understand one’s purpose one’s existence, is a story of the human condition. Even if you have never traveled, each one of us has that question of destiny: What is the path I walk on, is this the right path, who am I? Not all of us search out the answers to those questions, for better or worse, but the story teller can bring some answers to those questions- he/she can be the shaman the journeyman/woman who goes out, and brings us lessons of life, they do things that some of us may not have the strength to do on our own, they remind us that we are not alone. Wanderlust sold out because somewhere in Martin’s story there was something everyone could grasp onto, be it love found, love lost, running away, coming home, chaos or epiphany – the story spoke to many different people.
I don’t want to give away too many details in the performance that had affected me the most or made me think because I’m not sure when Martin will stop touring the show. You can look to his website to get a broader idea of what he has to offer. His writing is funny, honest, poignant and thought provoking. I recommend if you hear of a performance in your neighborhood you should check him out. I believe he is performing in San Francisco right now as I write this.
There is something about the fringe that invites the storyteller and allows them to follow in an ancient tradition of travelling from place to place bringing the tales, the fables of our life to those who want to hear and to learn. To learn about this amazing thing called life, this thing that no matter how different and separate we may feel no matter our culture we all love we all suffer we all question our purpose, we all have this thing called “living” in common.
***Just as a side note, I feel the need to emphasize the importance; that we as beings, need to protect the craft of the story teller, we need the arts. As the world makes its forward progression toward what feels to be an implosion, it is more important than ever to protect the arts. Creative expression literally saves lives. The more I experience such groups like Write Around Portland and Playwrite inc. and witness people flower and change, the more I learn about the brain and the need for face to face communication, the more I am reminded that we as a civilization need to fight for the continuing support of the arts, and the recognition that artists and creatives are valuable worthwhile members of our societies and not just means of entertainment- Make Art Not War.***