The eyes of an audience mean more to me than their words. At last night’s talkback after Man of La Mancha, there were audience members who were meaningfully lost in the experience of the play, eyes a bit misty. The “magic” of the play was working on them; you could see it. Simple delight was there, but more than that, an experience of live theatre was traveling through both their emotional centers and their intellect. You could see them tumbling around inside their hearts, reflecting on their own roles in the play, where they stood in relationship to the ideas tossed so cavalierly into the air by the “mad knight.” We all think we’re “Aldonzas”, broken, less than we might have been, beat up, perhaps halfway to hell because of what’s in our hearts. But Quixote looks Aldonza straight in the eye, not blind at all, but seeing more truly than any of the others, and tells her she is beautiful, pure, and “the woman each man holds secret in his heart,” Dulcinea.
And a few in the audience last night wondered if there was anyone in their lives who believed in them as Quixote believes in Aldonza. “Is there anyone to see me,” perhaps the person in the third row, second seat, asks, “as someone other than the ugly fraud that I accuse myself of being every day?”
For me, the question is this: do I see people as they might be, as they could be, or even, as they most truly are? And do I treat them from that center, from that reality? If what Cervantes suggests in this 500 year old story is at all true, then we have such power in our hands to be transforming agents of the realism our time is so in love with, so cynical about, so angry over. And perhaps all is political, perhaps all is sheer and mere power play, but I believe we live in a world where the simply human transactions of respect, courtesy, kindness, belief, faith, and most powerfully, love as Christ lived it, have the power to change everything, one day at a time, one person at a time, one impossible dream at a time.
I see the mist in the eyes of the audience as what some call the shekinah glory. The arrival of God’s presence and grace traveling on the windy voices of actors breathing in and out words and songs of the world not as it is, but as it ought to be.
Breathe, Jeff, breathe…