Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Don't Tell Me What to Think

The last issue of Zoetrope: All Story has one of the best short stories I’ve read in years–”Rothko Eggs,” by Keith Ridgway. The narrator, a teenage girl, liked art that’s “empty.” “Really good artists” left a lot out so that “she could take her own things into the painting.” She didn’t like an artist who didn’t leave much room and was just “trying to look like he had amazing ideas.”

I went to a performance recently that didn’t let me take anything into it. I was told what to think about the theme; the emotions expected of me were obvious. I was being presented to, preached to; there was no room for me in what was happening on stage. I predictably responded by refusing to think or feel as instructed, and left the performance angry.

I also saw recently a production of Sondheim’s Assassins. To my mind, it’s theme is that presidential assignation attempts are the logical extension of the American dream, the way to become “somebody.” That’s a crazy statement, and yet I walked out of the theatre accepting it as rational. Because I was allowed to laugh at the idea, to bring my own experiences to bear on it, to think about it.