I’ve been thinking about violence lately.
As I’m writing a novel about demons (sort of), magic (kind of), and death (maybe) and am stage managing a production of Titus Andronicus, I’ve been recently confronted with some dark themes and ill feelings I’d like to expound upon a bit.
As far as my new project is concerned, I’m still playing it close to the vest. However, the above themes are mostly there and in doing research to set it in our contemporary world, I’ve had to dwell on evil and demonic things. I’m extremely excited about the project, but every so often a chill runs down my spine.
Not that I’m afraid mind you.
There’s just something disconcerting about engaging with the, shall we say, unnatural.
Similarly, while being a part of this excellent production of Titus Andronicus with Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company, I’ve had the opportunity to witness and in some instances help stage moments of murder, rape, and cannibalism.
For those of you who know me, violence isn’t a huge issue in my real life.
I’m a nice enough guy who isn’t prone to violence.
As a theatre artist, however, stage combat is one of my things.
See below a 10 beat fight of me getting beaten up.
Of course, it isn’t real.
But when you’re watching it transpire, (evil, I mean. Something that goes against what you believe to be the way things are supposed to work) there’s a sort of jarring that happens.
Last night, while on book for the actresses playing Demetrius and Chiron, a feeling of dread came over me, and I had to know my wife and sons were okay. So…clumsily, while staying on book, I sent a text message along the lines of
“How’s your night?”
The response was everything I needed.
The boys were asleep finally. She was reading. Asked the same of me.
That’s all. I just needed to know my family was safe.
This is an extremely small (and not quite perfect) example of why I think it’s important to sometimes put yourself out of your comfort zone.
To watch, read, or listen to a book, movie, or album that puts your back up.
Makes your hair stand on end.
It FORCES you to do something.
You can’t just sit there. You can’t just read the words on the page or watch the actors perform. You need to reach out to someone you love and know that there is justice in the world. There is order in the world.
There is good in the world.
Now, I know there are people who have done heinous things inspired by simulated violence.
But I don’t believe they’re the norm.
Nor do I advocate for people immersing themselves in this kind of evil.
I know a Fight Choreographer who talked about building a dummy for a theatrical production that had to be capable of basically being disemboweled and spurting blood everywhere. He would work on it and experiment with it in his basement (as it was his job) and then just above his head, his kids would be playing. He would go from torturing this dummy to playing with his 3 and 5 year old kids. He said it was a, “challenge.”
He needed that good to outweigh the bad.
Because the bad was exhausting.
I think if you indulge those jarring senses to the point where you no longer cringe at it. When you’re so desensitized you can think about rape or murder without it seeming unnatural, you’ve let yourself go too far in, and you need some good in your life.
For me, it was knowing my family was safe.
As you write, as you act, as you watch or participate, keep in mind those things that are right, just, and natural about the life.
Let evil jar you. Let it bother you. Let it get under your skin.
And then do something.