This Is A Post About Being Creative, But I Can’t Think Of A Creative Title

I went and saw a play last weekend, Warhorse, which instantly became one of my top 5 theatre watching experiences. I’ve seen a ton of theatre in my lifetime—some of my earliest memories are of being hurried through dinner and stuffed into (itchy) lace tights and black patent leather shoes, getting gussied up in my best dress and going to the theatre at the high school auditorium in my home town of Grand Junction, Colorado, to watch whatever the high school or community orchestra was putting on. I don’t really remember much about the things I saw; I mostly remember being on the (itchy) chair and being so small that my legs stuck straight out. That’s why I remember I was wearing tights and shiny shoes. That’s basically all I could see, given that whomever was sitting in front of me was bound to be taller than my 3 year old self. And I know I was always hoping there would be some sort of performance emergency that could only be solved by choosing a little girl from the audience (and of course it would be me) to save the production. That never happened, worse the luck, but I never gave up hoping.

 Anyway, on Sunday we went and saw this production of Warhorse at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. I used to work in the subscription office, geez, that was about 20 years ago now, and I still have friends who work there, and who will get me house seats if I bring them chocolate. (Thanks, Kishisa!) So we had seats 6th row center for one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.

 You have to understand. This was the week that some crazy homicidal nutbag, believing he was the Joker, went in and shot up the movie theatre in Colorado. This was the week that Colorado responded by buying more guns. Some weeks are just crap on a stick in a dangerous world. How’s that for an enlightened life coachy perspective?

 I don’t listen to the news much. All I really knew was that this had happened, but I hadn’t spent any time listening to all the stories. I didn’t need details, didn’t want to cry about my beloved home state that seems to spawn mass killings with alarming regularity. What is it? Is it the fresh air? The beautiful mountains? The hardworking people?

 So I hadn’t gotten deep into that story, but it was out there, and it was just so sad. My heart was heavy. “People are terrible,” I was thinking most of the time between Friday and Sunday.

 And then we went and saw this play. I was with my husband, Albert, and my 10 year old son, Anton and his friend, Alden.  Without any fanfare at all, the play begins. No curtains go up, the lights don’t even really go all the way down, there’s suddenly just a foal on the stage. I will never be able to describe this in a way that captures its worth, but here goes.

 There’s this life-size creature—it’s made out of metal framing and there are 3 puppeteer/actors making it work.  You can see them. They’re not trying to hide—but the way they work the foal, it takes about 3 minutes and honestly, then you really don’t see them any more. You honestly believe you’re looking at a baby horse and you’ve completely fallen in love with it.

There’s no scenery—just a sort of canvas above the actors’ heads, on which they put hand drawn scenes of farms or the war or whatever—and again, you believe you’re there.

 The play began, I saw the horse, and I was in tears. Theatre is like church for me—plays have a religiosity that I don’t experience elsewhere too often, and I was just overcome with emotion.  The beauty of it, the magic! The imagination that went into this! And this was just the little horse! Then the fully-grown horse made his entrance in a spectacular way and it was almost too much to bear. The beauty, the beauty.  The stunning creativity that was displayed, the discipline of the actor/puppeteers, the complete disregard for the fact that no one has ever done anything like this. How did they know it would work? How did they figure it out? How is it possible to create something alive where there was nothing before? It took my breath away and it filled up my heart so much that it overflowed my eyes. I glanced at my husband—he was bawling. Our son and his friend looked at us, puzzled and slightly mortified. “Grow-ups are so weird,” they must have been thinking.

 It was art at its very best—meaningful and achingly gorgeous and funny and smart and touching—and beyond creative. And it got me to thinking about the idea of creativity.

 I know so many people, including myself, who want to create something but just don’t. What if no one buys it or likes it or reads it? What if it sucks? What if it doesn’t make any money? What if people like it but then nothing more comes of it?

 Funny, the play Warhorse is based on a book that was written years ago and sold about 2,000 copies. The guy who wrote it, Michael Morpurgo, must have been like: Well, dammit. I did my best and no one gives a shit. Why is no one buying it? I hate writing.

 Well. Maybe that’s not what he said, but that’s what I would have said.

 But here’s the thing. Imagine if he’d never written it. Imagine if he’d had a psychic tell him, “Well, it’ll get published but not many people will read it.” He might have decided to skip it, to keep his day job and wait for a better idea. And if he had—we wouldn’t have this amazing play. (Oh yeah, and the movie. Directed by Spielberg.)Imagine if, when he was contacted by the puppet theatre that wanted to do it—if he’d pictured sock puppets and just said no. Imagine if they’d taken no for an answer.

 I think the point I want to make here is: If something is tugging at you and wants to be created, then it’s your job to do that. You don’t know what will happen. Yes, it might suck. People might not get it. Maybe it won’t sell, or will only sell a few copies. But—no one knows, when they’re making something, what its impact or its outcome will be. No one knows how their art will touch others or what it might ultimately morph into. It’s not really the creator’s job to know or control that. It’s not even possible, really.

 All I know is that when I saw this play, my faith in human nature was restored. My universe expanded. Instead of thinking: “People are terrible,” I was thinking, “People are amazing. People are unlimited in their capacity for creating beauty and manifesting spirit so that we can see it right on the stage. People are magical.” It was sort of an antidote, not to the violence and the loss experienced in Colorado, but to my own assumptions. Yes, some people are crazy homicidal nutbags. But far more people are artists, at least in their hearts. And when the families in Colorado are ready for the healing part of their journey, I’m betting it will be art that will help a lot in that process. In the end, it’s the artists, not the nutbags, who have more power to make an impact on this sometimes sad and tired old world.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 7th, 2012 at 7:13 pm and is filed under Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


4 Responses to “This Is A Post About Being Creative, But I Can’t Think Of A Creative Title”

  1. david haining Says:

    I really appreciate your writings Sonja….hope all is well!!

  2. Sheila Says:

    Girl! You blow me away. I LOVE this post. It is exactly what I needed today to get over myself. You are so creative, funny, talented, and above all, real. I respect the hell out of you, Sonja – and I love you to pieces. Please keep writing. Please. XOXO Sheila

  3. Joy Cherry Says:

    Sonja – What a beautiful story. Thank you for being who you are and sharing it with us!

  4. Darcy Says:

    And then the joy ripples out because you share it with us.

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