Inspiration is fickle. It refuses to show up when you beckon. When you carefully set the stage, it hides shyly in the wings. You wait, breath held, eyes wide, listening for it to whisper in your ear. But...nothing.
Then... some time in the dark hours of deep night, it tickles you awake, blessing you with an image, an idea, a sound. You sit up in bed grasping at the shredded shadows of dreams and some time you are blessed and the shadows coalesce into bright landscapes full of imaginings. Or you are driving along listening to music on the radio when a lyric grabs you; your chest expands; your breath deepens; tears prick your eyes; a smile draws a curve across your face. Ah, there you are. Finally. Well, hello Inspiration.
Or at least that's how it usually works for me. Many things--hate that word, but what else to use--have inspired me over my lifetime beginning with Jason Robeson's rendition of Ole Man River from SHOWBOAT. But since April of 2014 when we completed the third festival of The Artist's Path on Journalism and Ethics in the 21st century, I've waited for Inspiration to come knocking. The wait has been long, with several false appearances. And then I was reading the play GRAPES OF WRATH, preparing for an upcoming audition. The final scene in the play touched me just as deeply as Mr. Steinbeck's novel did when I first read it in my early teens. I thought of all the years of my own personal migration from home to home, city to city, state to state and even to other countries. Though never a true immigrant I could always identify with the impulse to pull up stakes whether out of a need to escape a present or the yearning to seek a different future.
This need to move, relocate, migrate, travel, journey, voyage, trek is a human need and is allied with that other very human need, the putting down of roots, the anchoring of self. We are a nation of immigrants here in America whether we are recognizing earliest man finding his way to this continent via exposed land bridges or European settlers arriving by ship and in the bellies of those ships... African slaves. Or the youth from Central America seeking refuge from a life without hope.
|The Unwilling Immigrants of Africa|
|Unaccompanied Children on Border of Mexico|
But I would argue that the Joads were immigrants as well, seeking escape from the dust bowl of Oklahoma to the sweet smelling orange groves of southern California.
Today we still see people risking their lives and those of their young to find a better place to put down those roots. And not satisfied with the thin crust covering out planet we explore the depths of our oceans while we search for habitable planets in the dark reaches of deep space. Sometimes those who came before us turn their backs to us, the newcomers. We struggle with change in climate, language, culture as we make the effort to blend in without losing our sense of self. There are those times when our wandering demands the sacrifice of our lives. No matter the challenge, no matter the danger, the barriers, the sheer magnitude of our aspiration, we humans are on the move.
And so along the circuitous path of inspiration, I came finally to the next festival of The Artist's Path. In the tradition of the first three its title is: The Artist's Response to The Immigrant Experience through Theatre, Film, Dance and the Humanities. Path is calling on residents of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas to help bring this project to the stage. First we need the artistic gifts of playwrights from these four states to create 5 to 10 minute performance pieces around The Immigrant Experience. And we ask all of you to share any family photos that in some way reflect an immigrant experience. Details for approaching these 'Calls' are at www.The ArtistsPath.org
Let's all dig into the rich soil of The Immigrant Experience, plant some seeds and see what comes forth.
Gail Mangham, Artistic Director, The Artist's Path