On Knowing Where to Stand, Part 2

It was the death of a cat that prompted me to join Facebook.  The year was 2009, eleven years after I had adopted Misha from a colleague in Seattle.  Misha was large, regal, glamorous, a big-hearted, spirited tortoise-shell a friend of mine dubbed the Marquessa. I had moved twice and lost touch with the colleague, a woman named Suzanne, and I wanted to tell her that Misha had died, and also how much this cat had meant to me. When I googled Suzanne, the only contact information I found was through Facebook. So, reluctantly, I created an account.

I was reluctant because I had the sense that Facebook would be a huge distraction in my life and a waste of time. But I really did want to send some words of gratitude and shared mourning to Suzanne.  So I sent my first Facebook message.

A month passed, I never heard back from Suzanne, and I deactivated my account.

I reactivated it four years later. I was heading to Los Angeles last summer for an LGBT writing retreat, and some weeks before the retreat started, I learned that a Facebook group for the retreat’s participants had been created.  I have struggled all my life with feeling like an outsider, and I have also done a lot of work to overcome that feeling.  I knew I didn’t want to feel left out or excluded, so I joined the group, got drawn into the kaleidoscopic world of Facebook, and the rest is . . . a continuing experiment in how I choose to spend my time.

This is my first Arts Alive blogpost in several months.  When I created this blog in February 2012, it was, in part, in response to my frustration that the local daily newspaper, which had been regularly publishing theatre reviews by me and others, had made an abrupt budget decision, essentially eliminating any meaningful coverage of the arts. Over the course of over 70 posts, I reviewed plays, art exhibits and music events, conducted interviews with local artists and writers, as well as national figures like Pulitzer Prize winning composer Kevin Puts, whose works are a favorite of Chamber Music Monterey Bay.  For over a year, I kept up a steady stream of weekly posts, ranging from dance performances to Harold Pinter, and Aimee Bender to Louise Erdrich.

After my summer of writing conferences in 2013, I decided to focus more on my own writing.  By that time I was also posting regularly on Facebook, so Arts Alive got moved to the back burner.

One benefit I have noticed from participating in the culture of Facebook is an increased willingness to speak my mind.  Growing up gay and scared undoubtedly contributed to habits of secrecy and privacy, in thought as well as deed.  Some people blast out of the closet with the force of a cannon, and once the smoke has cleared there is no mystery about where they stand.  For others, like myself, the process is slower.  I’m still learning how to be an adult, to speak my mind, to feel unafraid of the opinions of others.

My intention for 2014 is to renew my commitment to publish Arts Alive blogposts, widening my focus to include not only the arts in Monterey County but other issues that inspire me to share my thoughts.

Lately, for instance, I have noticed having strong opinions about movies.  I’ll say more about that in a future post, but for now I will reveal that my favorite movie of 2013 was Frozen.  There, I said it.  A year ago I probably would have been too embarassed to share that, but the truth is, I don’t really care any more.  Frozen is beautifully made, with gorgeous songs and orchestral music, and a feminist story that upends the entire Disney tradition of a princess defined by the prince who saves her.  The two hugely talented lead performers are active in LGBT activism (one is also a strong animal-rights advocate), it has the voice of the dreamy Jonathan Groff, and the gayish snowman sidekick is not incidental but plays a key role not only in the unfolding of the plot but also in the film’s message of service to others.  There are other current films that, obviously, are of more intellectual and cultural and historical import, but I persist in believing that a prime function of art is to provide pleasure.  And at this moment I am just not interested in spending my money and time on seeing indulgently-long movies about the destructive lifestyles of immature, greedy people.

This is a longer post than I am accustomed to writing, and my sense of pacing is whispering at me to stop, but I have one more thing to say.

A significant part of my personal growth is thanks to the Monterey Peninsula College Drama Department, where I conquered my fear to stand on a stage in front of an audience.  When the local paper stopped running theatre reviews, it felt like an assault on a community that not only trains actors, directors, and stage crew, but also gives people of all ages a safe and creative place to develop skills for life.  Recently, the MPC adminstration proposed a huge budget cut to the Drama department, so huge it would have eliminated their ability to mount productions.  Department Chair Gary Bolen, my first acting teacher, has managed to negotiate a painful deal that will keep the department running, though at a high cost of losing two full-time positions.  It is VERY IMPORTANT that everyone, AND I MEAN EVERYONE, who cares about the arts in Monterey County come to a public meeting to discuss the future of the Drama department, which will be held on Wednesday, January 22, at 5 pm, at Lecture Forum 103 on the MPC Campus.  The Adminstration and the MPC Board of Directors need to see clearly and definitively how wide, deep, and passionate this community feels about local theatre, and the arts, and an irreplaceable tradition of deepening our sense of being alive.