Vox clamantis in deserto. A voice crying in the wilderness. The motto of my undergraduate college, Dartmouth. Dartmouth was founded as a school in the middle of Nowhere, New Hampshire, a few centuries ago, hence the motto. That phrase, cribbed from the Bible, has many resonances. Sometimes, preaching to the choir is such vox clamantis, when people are hearing but not truly listening. Sometimes there is the vox "clamantising" in the wilderness of the Other, the non-choir. That’s a lonely voice, too, because no one wants to listen. There’s another resonance, which may have to do with self-perception: saying what you have to say, need to say, but not knowing if anyone is listening.
This last one is what I have been feeling these last months and why I haven’t blogged on a more regular basis. A lyric from the “1776” comes to mind: “Is anybody there? Does anybody care? Does anybody see what I see?” But upon reflection, vox clamantis need never feel in deserto. Enter Hope and its sibling Faith.
We in the Arts and especially in the Theater embark upon this each time we begin a project. We have a reason for production. We hope audiences get it, and we have faith that at least some do.
I used to worry about audiences. Well, I still worry, but not for all of the same reasons my younger self did. Money, yes. Earned income, of course. But understanding? Comprehension? That just has to be engendered with hope and fortified with faith.
Do audiences get my work? I set Into the Woods in a refugee camp where the inhabitants told the fairy tale as a coping mechanism of fun and catharsis. I set a Henry 5 in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, as a personal metaphor by a soldier who loved Shakespeare and dreamed he was in the play. I did a Godspell where the play was born from a contemporary audience's need to explore the Gospel of Matthew during a time of corporate greed and the me first culture. I hope the audiences got some of these ideas.
Certainly some "see what I see," which is gratifying. Any audience has the potential for perception of viewpoints and reaching one individual is as important as reaching thousands. That is important faith.
I have faith that the good in the world will triumph, too. It just might take time. And I look to recent events as a benchmark. Too long the vox clamantis of Black Lives Matter has resounded in unhearing ears of generations in deserto. But now things are happening. Too slow, yes, but happening none-the-less.
So, vox clamantis in deserto? No, what we do, what we say, what we write, is heard. Keep writing, speaking and doing. Keep making Theater! Some will listen and indeed hear. Have Faith.
"Into the Woods" Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Book by James Lapine, presented by Theater 2020 in 2019, David Fuller, Director & Set; Judith Jarosz, Choreography; Suzanne Jones, Music Director; Giles Hogya, Lights; Matthew Lott, Costumes; Jen Weiner, PSM; with David André*, David Arthur Bachrach*, Torian Brackett, Ali Coopersmith, Alexa Crawford, Julia Goretsky*, John Jeffords*, Elizabeth Kensek*, Rudy Martinez, Bess Morrison*, Josephine Spada*, Tomo Watanabe, Shuyan Yang (*AEA)