Friday, December 13, 2013

Reflections of a Winter's Eve

I am constantly and consistently overwhelmed with people's behavior. Perhaps that is why I became a practitioner of the theatrical arts: to, in my own body, mind, and soul attempt to understand us as a race. As a beautiful creation and a narrowly avoided catastrophe, we live in constant flux and turmoil. From an early age we are taught to think linearly, not just about time and space, but feelings and emotions, relationships and deductions. Our minds are made and taught to box everything in, to sway one way or another, to lean toward black or white, right or wrong. Everything on this earth has a polar opposite, yet as we age we realize that actual shadings of extreme are a rarity and usually the result of circumstances beyond human control. Even in the endeavors of acting and writing, I am sometimes overwhelmed where my creations take me.

The truest and most remarkable assets of my chosen art are also its greatest flaws and fallacies. Theatre is the most mystical and powerful of the arts because the things we try for most can never be attained. Each individual moment can never occur again. Each action and reaction is completely unique and glorious/terrible. Each moment is taken in and judged from each individual perspective in that room.  It is completely under control and moments from disaster.  This is a direct result of the final collaborator, the audience.

Science is only beginning to comprehend the effects of humans on each other in groups.  The most rewarding and frustrating evenings are the ones where audiences respond or don't. We attempt to control the reaction but like cold fusion, the moment things seem repressed is the moment where anything can happen.  It is thrilling!!! Yet as we continue involvement in long runs or even long weekends, we fall into our nature and attempt to box things in again. "That was a great/terrible audience." "They got it/they hated it." Great theater can teeter on as little as one reaction.

It brings up the question, is there such a thing as bad theatre? I mean, calculating the sheer number of variables a single performance contains, even the first five minutes of any given show, from minimalist Shakespeare, to grandiose Chekhovian drama, is an infinite and overwhelming task. I have seen theatre that I loathed, but was it really terrible? Was it a bad night? A unique choice of a single performer that set me on edge? Or was it my own exterior circumstances? Maybe a group of fellow audience members were off put and hold such powerful energies together, they affected the entire room! I was trained as an actor to never let the audience persuade your characters judgment, yet this is a hapless pipe dream. Everything is completely dependent on everything else, in the world, and in theatre (audiences included)! 

When one ponders the implications of the infinite, something we are incapable of completely understanding, one starts to realize that any show actually happening is somewhat of a miracle. That anything happens is a miracle, for that matter but especially in the art most like life. 

In closing, perhaps instead of instantly condemning something, whatever that may be, that we see, we should take a moment and attempt to see the bigger picture, also like life. Let us not relish in our ignorance but enjoy the moments and the process of being a part of something genuinely larger than ourselves. Appreciate being part of a miracle: a bad night at the theater is certainly better than most nights anywhere else... Who knows, you may even enjoy yourself more and in new and unique ways!  The catharsis and comedy may affect your life or maybe not.  Such is life in the Post-Post Modern World.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Reflection

"I sit, exhausted and exasperated, on the stairs in the entryway of the Shiva Theater at the Public, listening to the acts of a show that shall remain nameless.  This particular show has developed quite a name for itself among, not only my co-workers, but all the audiences that have endured this lengthy work in this 99 seat house.  My favorite part of working this particular show is seeing the looks of elation and exasperation on the audiences faces, for this particular show accomplished little within itself and left meaning and catharsis to the audiences discretion. This kind of show always makes me question everything I know about art, it practices, and its place in our society.  Interestingly enough, the first time I saw this piece, I almost enjoyed it. I could appreciate the themes and ideas it put forth and the dramatic devices it used. I found the declamatory dialog almost charming. This time however, I'm finding I have to force my hands in my pockets to avoid repeatedly punching myself in the face to alleviate some of the pain I'm feeling.  Ah theatre, you are a cruel mistress..."

I wrote that blurb a while ago and I still sit reflecting its content and ramifications in my life.  Maybe it's my age and education level that makes me prone to existential crises, perhaps it is the subjects I chose to study within my higher education. Either way, this particular show had a great effect on me and I'm sure it wasn't the intended one.

When I was still in high school, I undertook the daunting task of not only researching philosophy through a particular thinkers eyes, but also to map out my own ideals and compare the two. This high school class was unlike most in the rest of the country (thank you Ms. Sterns) and this particular semester culminated in, for me, a 29 page paper.

I was fortunate enough to draw John Dewey out of the hat noble thinkers and could completely identify with his ideas at the time.  He succeeded in completely changing the American educational system for the better during his lifetime (it seems we are due for another like him.) He also however, spent a great deal of time studying aesthetics. You see, according to him art isn't determined by its sheer beauty or meaning, but by an emotional response that it elicites...any emotional response at all is enough to qualify something as art. I, as a teenaged adult ready to spring into the artistic world, thought this was the most refreshing idea I had ever read.  I remember the first time I experienced this revalation. 

In the Robert A. Peck gallery, a place that would take up quite a bit of my time in the near future, a particular sculpture stood out to me. It was an overly tall, eyeless baby with the hind legs of a goat holding a baseball bat ready for pitch, cast in bronze.  I found the damn thing horrifying and would actually have payed to have it destroyed more than have it in my home or a museum, and yet, I still remember it to this day. Boy did it elicit a response! 

John Dewey was correct about emotional
responses being memorable, that is scientifically validated. As I grow older however, I find my pendulum swinging ever back toward aesthetics being necessarily (at least in part) beautiful.  I have realized that according to the principles, a dog crapping on the street and another stepping in it, is art; a set if emotional responses were created, indifference (maybe even schadenfreude) and anger.  Is art really art without the beauty to back up the response, the craft to marvel at? In the performing arts, I have been moved by the sheer beauty of the crafts in every form.  In music, the resolution of a passage of dissonance so perfectly, it creates goosebumps.  In dance, a feat of balance and form that flows so beautifully into the next, tears inexplicably form in eyes. In drama, a moment of revelation so interinsicly rendered that chills down the spine complete a moment of perfect communication betwixt audience and actor. These are the moments artists and audiences crave and spend lifetimes pursuing! Meaning, connection, absolvence, undeniable beauty in its purest form.

Back to the nameless play... Are some plays designed to only be viewed once? Was it some sort of personal endeavor that made the second viewing so painful? Should I have forced my senses not to drift, not to wander?  Or can I assume that once a show such as this has the novelty worn off, it appears as it truly is: a pretentious, masterbatory, scum sucking piece of detritus laden, perversity.

Who can say? 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Tidings of Christmas Cheer... 2 months early.

On October 25th, 2013, I like most of America witnessed something unexpected whilst viewing an evening of television with my wife.  Suddenly in the midst of the tedium that is commercial breaks on national, syndicated television, I heard a familiar yet unanticipated, tune.  The tune took me directly back to sitting in the Fehring home on the hill and all of the times over the years that I have sung it.  My mind flooded with wonderful memories, smells of spices and baking intellectually plunged into my nasal passages, and for a brief moment, everything sparkled as it does when decorated for the winter holidays.  I was lost in an avalanche of good memories.  This is nothing new for me, as I am one of the biggest suckers for the holidays that has ever lived; almost as if the patron saints of Holiday Cheer and Christmastime take residence in my vocal folds and plunge their hands into my brain stem.  I love everything about it, the food, the gift giving, the time with loved ones, and most of all the music! My mind seems to be programmed with a predisposition for the era that most of my favorite carols and songs were written.  In fact, it is not unusual for me to start listening to Holiday Music off and on from September onward, just to temper my yearning for the leaves to fall so the snow can follow...I know, I'm not normal. This however was different, this was a commercial.  This was an attempt to create a panic for those of us living in a Post Post Modern world and who choose to celebrate the holidays. This was a commercial that literally said, "Don't let the holidays sneak up on you," like some sort of looming terror awaits you procrastinators and skeptics.  I became slightly irritated. 

"Why the hell is this happening so early," I asked?  After a bit of research, it turns out Corporate America is worried that because Thanksgiving falls late this year, they will some how lose out on six (can you believe it, SIX) days of shopping.  As a dejected, involuntary soldier on the front lines of the retail battlefield for almost a decade, I can say that logic isn't necessarily a strong point in the leadership positions of most mega-stores and Fortune-500 companies.  Ironic isn't it? You would think that for something to be that successful, it would be a requirement.  I'm here to testify that the opposite is usually true, but I digress.  Consequently, we have been bombarded with advertising two months early, and with each passing day, the over-saturation is getting worse.  For those you not ecstatic about the holidays, burn out will strike early and often, your moods will weaken and sarcasm and disdain will rein terror on glad tidings and yuletide joy.  For those of us who are still touched by Jack frost and the Christmas Spirit, we are also vulnerable to exulted exhaustion and will have to shut in our spirits and the glow that this time of year gives us for fear of expulsion from society. To summarize, the consumerism wrought of American "progress" is ruining my life.

I am not speaking merely of the forced suppression of happiness, I'm speaking of the literal ruining of my time on this earth.  Not only are we being force fed advertising, I was informed last week that instead of opening at midnight on Black Friday like the last two years, a schedule that required me to head into work at 10:00pm on Thanksgiving (9:00 living in New York), my company is now opening at 6:00pm ON THANKSGIVING!!!!!!!!! I was absolutely livid!!!  If required to work, I would have to leave here at 3:30pm.  That is when my family usual sits down to the meal!  Bad enough that this God-forsaken job rips away my wife's and my ability to fly home for the holidays, now the bastards are attempting to steal my ability to enjoy any holiday in any capacity!  This sadly wasn't even my biggest disappointment for the week.  In a tirade of fury I spoke to every single one of my friends at work about how aggravated and frustrated I was about the situation and not a single one shared my feelings.  Most in fact, were grateful for the opportunity to make time and a half for more than two hours on a national holiday and to not have to spend the day with their families.  I can't blame them, money is tight everywhere and yet, here the circle of greed is completed and the flaws in our country brought directly to the surface.

Maybe that is the reason the holidays are so divided perceptively: the way I was raised, I see the goodness, the charity, all the great parts of humanity this time of year.  The underbelly of humanity though is ever present in adult life and the holidays can also bring out the worst in people.  The stress alone of the rituals every year can cause people to scream at, trip, and shove to get the "perfect" gift. Like most things in life, perspective proves the turning point.  There is, one thing I think we can agree upon however, and that is about consumerism.  The reason companies are agreeing to put their employees through hell, is because that is what they perceive as the general want of this country.  If that is truly the case, then I will grin and bear it and suffer in silence.  However, if you agree with me even in the slightest, that the manipulation of the public to these extremes is unfounded and ridiculous: do me a favor.  See what happens if you stay in for Black Friday.  I know that of the three of you that read this, one also has to schlepp themselves into consumerism as well, but just try it! The sales will most likely be similar until the big day anyway.  Give your families another chance, and while you're at it, make a conscious effort to see the goodness in people.

*Cameron steps off his soap box and throws it stage left.*

I will keep updating about the holidays because it is my favorite time of year and I will keep singing and enjoying the greatest city in the world. Hats off to all of you dear friends, enjoy existence!

Monday, November 4, 2013

American Social Media Whoredom Personified

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Post Post Modern, Internet Era; my name is Cameron Michael Fehring and this is my blog.  As a member of "Generation Y" I have never been resistant to technology.  In fact I, like most of us have embraced its ever changing sometimes fickle face.  However, there were certain aspects that I avoided like the plague.

Something that has always bothered me about "Social Networking" is the constant stream of unnecessary information from everyone about everything.  This is the purpose and yet, this can also be a tedious blunder.  I personally enjoy reading about certain aspects of peoples lives.  Facebook has changed the way we keep in touch forever and most of my college acquaintances, the three people from high school that I actually want to keep in touch with, and all of my dearest friends and family are a click away.  Vacation photos, life events, date nights, and random ironic events from daily life or clever observations about humanity and our endeavors are what I enjoy most.  I don't enjoy workout routines, crappy homemade dinner photos, inner monologues or desperate pleas for attention.  I have a hard time believing that anyone honestly cares about my opinions on most things, much less everything.

Maybe that is the reason that up until this day I have avoided Twitter.  My outsider perspective is probably waving like a banner of ignorance, but that particular area of the internet seemed like an excuse to do all of the things I mentioned above: complete with a hyper-popular and specialized method to call attention to amateur photography, uncensored undereducated opinions, oblivious hateful bashing of things a person doesn't understand, desperate pleas for attention and admiration, and mental masturbation: "hashtags."

The pound symbol (I personally will always view this little symbol as a sharp; the opposite of flat) is now used to add common searchable edifices to everyday situations and photos.  "Hashtags" have also become an excuse to type out subtext in long, grammatically incorrect, un-punctuated sentences for an attempt and usual failure of comic relief.  This simple method has changed the technological world and though it represented the bane of my social networking existence, it also created the recent allusion to requirement.

A few weeks ago, my lovely wife attended the Photography EXPO here in NYC.  The workshops she attended were all about the importance of social networking in establishing a brand and advertising in the initial years of starting a business.  This may have been for visual arts, but the statements are just as true in the performing arts.  People are making shorts, documentaries, full length films and parodies for the internet exclusively.  Future fans can now find you in a single search on any of the social networks via the "hashtag" and start following your pages.  Fan clubs are no longer an exclusive badge of nerddom, they are the norm.

As a result, as someone who is even attempting to develop a career in the arts, I have given in to the call of all social media, including Twitter...and this blog.  I still have a hard time believing anyone will even read this or my tweets, and I am fairly tolerant with this realization; but in the last week my wife's amazing work has received lots of attention via Twitter and her blog is delightful. So I'm giving this a shot.

Twitter: CMFehring