Transitions, as a clever psychotherapist would normally remind me in my impetuous 30s, are obligatory. Racing from one exercise to the subsequent is just not solely exhausting but in addition inefficient. Winding up requires winding down, whether or not it’s switching between elements of the day or phases of life.
These ideas occurred to me as I did one thing Sunday for the primary time in additional than 14 months: I went to the theater. The event was “A Thousand Methods (Half Two): An Encounter,” the second providing in a trilogy by the experimental theater troupe 600 Highwaymen that’s being introduced by UCLA’s Middle for the Artwork of Efficiency.
The primary installment, “A Cellphone Name,” passed off in December by phone. Two strangers have been paired for a quasi-conversation, guided by the automated prompts of what appeared like Siri’s great-grandmother.
The COVID-19 pandemic was uncontrolled in California, stress was at a boiling level, and I discovered answering private questions on the command of some creaky know-how deeply disturbing. Hadn’t Mark Zuckerberg already extracted sufficient out of me?
I wasn’t positive what to anticipate in “An Encounter,” besides that I knew I needed to placed on pants and sneakers, get in my automotive, pay UCLA’s exorbitant parking price, stroll from Parking Lot 5 to Royce Corridor, safe my masks, converse to the check-in individual and wait directions. This gauntlet felt nearly insurmountable for somebody whose outdoors world has shrunk to the grocery store and the tennis court docket. However, summoning a little bit Hillary Clinton power, I persevered.
I’ve taken each precaution towards COVID-19, however it wasn’t publicity I used to be fearful about. I’m totally vaccinated and I trusted the protection measures that had been scrupulously labored out. No, what I felt appeared akin to the stress an astronaut should really feel contained in the cabin of a spaceship because it reenters Earth’s ambiance.
Maybe my response was a contact exaggerated by figuring out that I’d be seeing the present with just one different individual. And that, much like “A Cellphone Name,” this different spectator and I’d primarily be the act. I wasn’t simply going to a efficiency. I needed to carry out myself!
Viewers members are scheduled over three Sundays into hour-long blocks. I opted for a midmorning slot on the primary weekend — a time extra frequent for church than theater, however most agreeable to 1 with my holy secular temperament. I want venues could be much less locked into the 8 p.m. postprandial behavior going ahead. It was a pleasant change to expertise a efficiency with morning alertness.
Seated within the empty, huge auditorium at reverse ends of a desk and separated by a pane of plexiglass, an ideal stranger and I have been instructed on the way to proceed by a big deck of notecards with arrows indicating whose flip it was. A younger girl with a kindly demeanor was my interlocutor and scene associate.
We have been requested to breathe. Questions on our lives adopted. Had I ever slept with a weapon? (No!) When did I final expertise pleasure? (Hitting a profitable backhand up the road the day earlier than.) Had I had surgical procedure? (Sure.)
We have been requested to think about eventualities involving the opposite individual, caught within the rain, mingling at a celebration, being greeted by a cherished one. We have been urged to check one another’s mother and father and to think about what could be the opposite individual’s particular reward and delight.
The playing cards requested us to clench our fists slowly after which unfurl them on the similar tempo. We have been to image the opposite individual holding a hammer, then a chicken. Collectively, we have been advised to press our fingers towards the plexiglass, to make a field, the letter “S,” a bowl. Spatially clumsy, I adopted the lead of my extra swish costar.
This alternate didn’t really feel intrusive the best way “A Cellphone Name” did. Sure, we have been responding to nameless prompts, however we have been wanting, respectfully and diffidently, at a fellow human being.
“An Encounter” typically appears like a type of psychological experiments on college campuses that recruit college students with a Starbucks reward card. However the piece appears in the end designed for a therapeutic function: to get to us to see the malleability of the narratives we challenge onto one another.
Our tales change when our imaginations are inspired to humanize moderately than to generalize. Visible cues turn out to be extra significant when endowed with empathy. “An Encounter” invitations us to take part in our shared vulnerability.
Half Three of “A Thousand Methods” will carry us collectively as a bunch, at a time when it’s secure to collect once more. Half Two is the transitional step that I badly wanted however would usually deny myself.
I thanked my associate once I noticed her outdoors, saying that I used to be glad to have executed this experiment along with her. After which we parted into our separate lives, touched by the presence of a stranger.
And isn’t that, I mirrored whereas driving residence, the last word function of theater?
‘A Thousand Methods (Half Two): An Encounter’
The place: A CAP UCLA presentation at Royce Corridor, 340 Royce Drive, Los Angeles
When: Numerous occasions Sundays by means of Might 16
Tickets: $25 (following RSVP)
Working time: About 1 hour
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