Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Old Hat

Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.

Raymond Lindquist
I have very little use for traditions. I admit there are some traditions that lend enhancement to certain holidays and celebrations. Rituals, practices and artifacts have grown up over the years that people rely on to help identify and establish the meaning and enjoyment of many special occasions. Those are harmless traditions, and even though I count them unnecessary in my life, I don't deny their importance to others.

What bothers me is rut thinking, traditional ideas and practices that keep people stuck in a certain way of thinking that is harmful and prevents any degree of ingenuity and imagination from being used.

It is strange to say that some of the most stone headed thinking I have had the disgust to witness has been in the theatre, and not only disgust but fear. Fear because theatre knocks on the door of humanity in such a profound way that it should have the conscience and commitment to suggest and prove originality and brave thinking.

I could cite hundreds of examples, probably, and they would all appear unimportant and trivial, and within the context of the situation they probably are. But they're earmarks of the kind of missing of opportunities I'm discussing.

I lost out on a role one day because I wasn't fat. There was nothing in the script about the character being fat. But the actor who played it in the original film was fat. Too many directors and producers want the production to look like the film so they hire actors who resemble the original players. How stupid.

When I played Scrooge I did not play him like Alistair Sim, even if some people expected me to. Sim made a great film and he defined Scrooge for millions of people. But when they cast me in the role they knew they were getting a different interpretation.

In one show I had to carry a live chicken across the stage. When live animals are used in professional theatre in this country they are well taken care of thanks to the animal welfare organizations. She had her own dressing room, climate controlled, and when the dressing room assignments were posted, on the door of hers was the name "Henrietta." I was miffed. Every live chicken that has ever appeared on the stage in an English speaking theatre has been named Henrietta, can't we use a little imagination, drop it and come up with a new name for her? How about Helga? Nope, she was Henrietta in the program. How unclever.

In classical theatre there are certain rules that must be followed, but how they are is open to great improvisation and creativity. In the hands of someone like Lawrence Olivier the classical characters took on dimensions not usually seen. For example, Olivier's production of "The Merchant of Venice" was not an antisemitic play, as many Jewish groups feared, rather it was a play about antisemites. Nothing was changed, but the point of view was shifted. The traditional attitude was given up and room was made for a fresh interpretation.

These few lessons point to a very important truth. Holding on to a stale idea simply because it is the tradition is an unhealthy thing for the human race. By challenging traditions and discarding the useless ones, discoveries are made, attitudes are improved and opportunities are broadened.

"Without freedom from the past, there is no freedom at all." (Krishnamurti)

DB - The Vagabond
Weekend Puzzle

2 items are missing from the following sequence. What are they?
You may listen to the radio while you solve it, if you wish.


Good luck


Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

It seems that there is much holding on to stale ideas these days. I hope we can get some fresh ideas soon.

Big Mark 243 said...

Fear. There is a great fear in the unfamiliar and the unknown. It begins within, and I am thinking of the case of the chicken and its name. Were I in charge of the production, I would have 'named' it as I like names. Maybe I would have called her by one of my daughter's name or a name that I would have liked to have used for a child. A small thing, yes, but still and indicator of someone's capcity for creativity.

In defence of this kind of thinking, it could be due to convention. "If it isn't broke..", then why try to fix it?

The imagination is woefully underused... and even within convention there is room to be creative... but that is more like work and explains why there was only one Da Vinci...