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The Modern-Day Campfire

So a brief discussion in class on the #newplay Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play got me thinking and wondering about the origins and the future of storytelling. It all began around a fire, thousands and thousands of years ago. Someone once told me (I believe it was one of my classmates, I apologize for not giving you the proper credit, whoever you are) that all humans enjoy the smell of a campfire. That is certainly a generalization, for it must be almost impossible for ALL humans to like something, but I challenge you to find someone who actively dislikes a campfire. The reasoning behind this theory is that, ingrained in all of us is the sense of security fires offer. Since the first human and the first fire, they have been a place of warmth and light. It has represented safety, food, health, and company. The idea of convening around a campfire is as old as humans’ deep need to be comforted. As soon as we are born, we cry out and desire a response.


Here are some basics about campfires:
1. It must be built
2. It must be fed
3. It is hot
4. It requires oxygen

Could we say the same about a story? About a theater company? About the future of theater?
Could we also say the same about Netflix? HBOGo?
Here is where I have reached my predicament. The idea of live theater is so much about the audience. People have to get out of their nice, cozy homes and drive in a snowstorm to buy a ticket and sit in a dark theater for 90 minutes, just to drive back home in that blizzard, take off their wet socks, and hit the sack ’cause it’s late now. Of course it’s more appealing to watch one or two or ten episodes of Parks and Rec on Netflix. But theater feeds our inherent desire for human connection. Everyone else in that theater trekked through the same snowstorm to find warmth, comfort, and a story in that theater. Everyone else got their ticket and smelled the comfort and call of the inner fire. The living, breathing director/stage manager/actors built and fed that story and desire response. The biotic and abotic natures of theater and Netflix is where the future of storytelling converges.

I’m at a point in my life, artistically and otherwise, where things are shifting and changing, and sometimes I wonder, “Who am I to consider the future of theater? Who am I to say, ‘should’ or ‘could’?” But then, it’s thrilling to realize that the future of theater is upon us. The future of theater is the young artists being thrown to the cold pavement and being told ‘do something,’ ‘create something’. And so, I want to find what lights my own fire. I think it’s thrilling that the future of theater could revert back. Instead of finding innovation and new ideas (which is amazing and also valid) why not pull from the history that we know works, well? We strip down to the basics- to warmth, to food, to company, and to stories, and invite responses from others. It requires one’s live, organic self. The presence of the actors and the presence of the audience. A fire is a living, breathing, hungry vessel to be fed with human connection and the telling of a good story.


One comment on “The Modern-Day Campfire

  1. Stumbled upon this quote today and it reminded me of this post:
    “I have noticed that when all the lights are on, people tend to talk about what they are doing – their outer lives. Sitting round in candlelight or firelight, people start to talk about how they are feeling – their inner lives. They speak subjectively, they argue less, there are longer pauses. To sit alone without any electric light is curiously creative. I have my best ideas at dawn or at nightfall, but not if I switch on the lights – then I start thinking about projects, deadlines, demands, and the shadows and shapes of the house become objects, not suggestions, things that need to done, not a background to thought.”
    — Jeanette Winterson

    How do we get people away from the lights of this world (of which there are so many with computers and phones) and back into the dark. Into the theatre. Exploring the moments many humans find hard to explore without the help of darkness. Food, warmth, company, and stories. And maybe letting the flame serve as our only illumination for a short time.

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