Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Collective Kitchen Table

This is our kitchen table:

This is what has become of our kitchen table in the home stretch of our busiest semester yet:

The kitchen table has always been a symbol for conversation and togetherness. For us, it's also a symbol for everything that we need to deal with in the immediate future.

About a month ago I was attempting to clean it (read: put stuff into a collin pile and a kaitlyn pile) and I came across the receipt Collin had filled out for one of those sponsor a child companies. When I asked him why he had signed up when we were struggling to pay rent, his reply was one of admirable sympathy: He felt bad for the street canvasser. By filling out the form, Collin contributed to the quota this guy had to fill in order to get paid for the week. His intent was to terminate the account as soon as it was activated, knowing that his cancellation would not affect the employee’s commission.

At this point, neither of us had thought about the child.

A couple weeks later, I was making a new attempt to clean the kitchen table when I noticed a large opened envelope from the same company, with its previous contents stacked neatly on top.
While I perused the thank you letter that was capping the stack, I was still wondering if Collin had canceled yet. Then I saw the picture that was included in the package. His name -Moryz- was printed across the bottom, and he was absolutely adorable. I propped his picture up against another random kitchen-table-stack while I read a sheet of information about Moryz:

He is Filipino. He is six years old. He loves to dance. He goes to school. His favorite subject is art.

By the time Collin made his way back to the kitchen, I was in tears and Moryz’s picture was in a magnetic frame on the refrigerator. I told him that we had to sponsor him despite our diet of ramen noodles and water. He is real. He has a face and a name and a blue and white shirt. Our monthly contribution, about a weeks worth of starbucks, increases his family’s income by 50%. Collin admitted that he was already thinking of a way to approach me about it.


This personal account is a necessary preface to the subject of immediacy. Collin was more interested in helping the street canvasser than the hungry child because the street canvasser was there, right in front of him and Moryz was not. I did not care about Moryz when he was a statistic, only when he had a name and a picture. When he was sitting on our kitchen table. When he became immediate.

Pertaining to theatre, we often use the word immediacy to mean “live action,” in an attempt to differentiate theatre from television and film. Supplemental to the direct relationship between actor and audience member, immediacy can also describe the relevance and relatability of the subject matter, a political or emotional appeal and the urgency of a reaction from the audience. In the near future, I’m hoping to discuss some of the things that have influenced my thought, including Iranian Theatre, Carol Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children, and Venice Saved: A Seminar, a production recently featured at PS122. Until that glorious time, however, I’ll leave you with Artaud’s thoughts on the matter while desperately, as always, urging you to leave me with some of your thoughts:

"We are not free. And the sky can still fall on our heads. And the theatre has been created to teach us that first of all.”

1 comment:

aeh2 said...

Kaitlyn, thank you for this wonderful story - both in itself and in the telling - and I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts about immediacy in the theatre. I wonder, for instance, if Collin and you were more moved (to act, to feel) because of the one-on-one nature of the event; and if so, does the relative size of an audience compromise or undermine the nature of that contact? [Tangentially, I should mention that just last night I made a pledge to the ACLU as a result of a street canvasser, not only because of the in-person dynamic and the concerns that Collin described, but also because it strikes me that it is more important than ever to give as generously as we can to the causes we care about. So I applaud you both.]