On Nationalism: I Pledge No Allegiance

Let’s talk for a moment about the scourge of reason that is nationalism. Nationalism is a biting, blighting plague that creeps its way insidiously into the populace of a scared nation, licking its wounds and growling to make itself seem brave. It causes the nation to raise its hackles and arch its back, attempting to seem larger than it is, more dangerous than it could ever be. At the same time, nationalism wraps a blindfold around the eyes, further enraging the beast it has created, and whispers in its ear that enemies are all around. So blinded and mislead, the nation lashes out at any that would approach it with compassion. The first to fall are its own children.

And that’s that. A reasonable nation becomes rabid, rotting from within, because it wants to seem large in the face of adversity. Potentially the worst aspect of it? The adversary never existed at all. It was whispered in darkness, throwing blame whenever hardship was encountered. The great enemy was but an illusion created so that the cancer could thrive.

Flowery language aside, a casual reader might think that I am blowing this up, using hyperbole. I am not. I speak in metaphor, and rather vivid metaphor at that, but there is no exaggeration to be found here.

Let’s take a look at the roots of the issue.

Nationalism begins as a political tool. A crisis happens, man-made or otherwise. An economy is in shambles. Perhaps the nation is coming off of a war that they lost. In other words, the population is generally downtrodden, scared, or even simply hungry. Something is wrong on the national level. It even might be a single event that gets national coverage, where the perpetrator of the tragedy belongs to a minority of some kind.

Nationalist feelings almost always originate from a party that wishes to exploit them. They are out in a few numbers in communities, doing charity work or holding public office, and attributing their good works to the duty of a humble citizen of Nation ___. They interact face-to-face with members of their towns and cities, especially the elders of the community and the future generation. The elders are heads of households, pillars of the community, and have a strong sense of tradition viewed through rose-colored glasses. The future generation is still at the age where they are highly suggestible, open to others’ viewpoints purely on the grounds that they were kind to them despite their age. Come time to vote, the remembered kindnesses drive the Nationalist candidates into office. Babies are kissed, pictures taken, flags waved.

The Nationalists then go to the working class. The working class is more cynical, suspicious, but their children and parents are both proudly waving the flag of Nation ___, declaring their virtues. Worn down from all fronts, they are willing to hear politicians out. The politicians put on a sympathetic face, pretending to relate with the workers’ problems. They declare themselves to be true patriots, and claim to see the best of national values embodied in the workers. There is chest-thumping, meals shared, and trust is formed. More of them are voted in.

The Nationalists now have sympathizers on every level. Sure, said sympathizers might not have a complete idea of the politics of the party they are now supporting, but they know them personally and they seem like perfectly reasonable sorts. So really, how bad could their policies be?

A word in the right ears, and everywhere the next generation is, their policies begin to take hold. Classrooms are required to Nation ___’s flag on prominent display, and the day is begun by the students reciting the nation’s pledge. Holidays and festivals are held, public displays of national pride in which the Nationalists feature prominently. Their floats are decorated with symbols of national empowerment, heralded by rousing military marches both new and traditional. They stir up old myths and half-truths about Nation ___’s past, claiming the symbolism of Nation ___’s heroes as their own. The populace rejoices.

In those schools and fairs, the problems of the nation are forgotten for the moment. Sure, there might barely be enough money to put on the table, but the citizens are reminded that they have their dignity. They have their pride, and no one can take that from them, for they and their neighbors are all proud citizens of Nation ___.

Then, all of a sudden, the Nationalists bring the problems of the nation to the forefront. They shout them from the town square, waving their flags and playing their anthems. They initially make no claims, but they say what is wrong (Often creating or inflating issues in the process), and say that they will fix these issues, because that is what proud citizens do.

At this phase, the dissenters are phased out of power. The Nationalists have seized the public’s collective heart, and dedicated their victory to Nation ___ and her citizens. While it is never explicitly said at this point, it is strongly implied that any non-Nationalist must therefore not be a proud citizen of Nation ___. They are sympathetic, commiserating with the populace about having to pull the weight of society that people who are not proud citizens do not. They appeal to the individual providers, talking them up while talking an undefined “other” down.

Then, an excuse. Something happens, whether it is another crisis or a sudden surge of support for the Nationalist party. Using the momentum, they quickly find an easy target, and slap the label of “Other” on them. “The ‘Others’ are not like you. You are a proud citizen, a credit to Nation ___. By process of warped logic, the ‘Others’ must not be proud citizens. They are at best simply leeches on our proud nation, at worst, counterrevolutionaries. They see our proud movement, and wish us to fail, and by extension, for our nation to fail so that they can profit.”

Political steps are taken. Sanctions are placed, watch-lists formed, and suspicions stoked. Violence begins to erupt in the dark alleys against the “Others,” but people look away, because they are proud citizens, and they spare no pity for counterrevolutionaries. The climate grows more and more hostile, and nationalism grows, communities banding together over their shared love of Nation ___. The people who don’t show up to these celebrations of national pride are suddenly suspect. Any “Others” that show up are seen as spies, liars, informants. “The revolution is ever so tenuous, and proud citizens should be wary. Enemies and traitors are all around!”

Despite the fact that they have a voting majority in their party, the Nationalists keep up the image of being constantly persecuted. None fight harder for a cause than when they feel they are being suppressed. Slowly, the definition of “Other” is expanded. Proud citizens are offered benefits for informing on “Others” in their community. While some might be squeamish about turning on those they have known for so long, all it takes is one who buys into the propaganda to inform. When those who were squeamish see their friends and neighbors get taken, they suddenly realize what is going on. But by that point, it is too late. The fanatics of the Nationalists are all around them, and when showing misgivings over methods is enough to get declared “Other,” they make a point of attending the rallies, shouting louder than any of their fellows, simply for fear of being taken themselves.

The number of reasonable, scared citizens grows, but so too do the numbers of the Nationalists. The students are getting out of school, swelling with national pride, and are told that there is no greater sacrifice, no greater honor that a citizen can make than to join Nation ___’s army. They go in droves to be handed firearms and flags, and a bit of dyed cloth becomes more valuable than human life. The “Others” are no longer simply non-contributing citizens or potential traitors, they have had the labels of humanity struck from them. They are monsters, waiting in the dark corners of the cities, hiding among honest, proud citizens, looking for any opportunity to undermine national good for their own sick amusement. Again, “Other” is expanded, and “Proud Citizen” is shrunk. The favored people become more and more homogeneous, banding together in like groups against anything different, anything “Other.” Even Party members, who helped start the movement at the core, are dismissed as “Other” because they no longer fit the image of “Proud Citizen.”

“Others” flee, are imprisoned, or are executed. Agents are sent out to neighboring powers, feeling out sympathies among their own Nationalists. Eventually, Nation ___ declares Neighboring Nation ___ to be a true friend to the people. They offer their support in ridding them of their “Others” so that they may enter the age of prosperity that Nation ___ has. A “Security Zone” is established, usually consisting of the opposite border of nearby powers rather than the shared border.

All the while, the problems of Nation ___ are far from solved. Usually, they are much worse. But Proud Citizens don’t complain. Nation ___ is strong. It has to be strong. Otherwise, it will fall to the nefarious plans of the “Others.”  Thus, the problems of Nation ___ are not spoken of. Anyone who brings them up is shouted down, fact dismissed in favor of rhetoric. Accusations are thrown, and dissenters are silent for fear of their lives, or are silenced.

Not a pretty picture, is it? It should feel very familiar. Sickeningly so in fact.

Some readers will read Nazi Germany. Some will read Soviet Russia. Some will read British Independence.

Some will read The United States of America.

Which of these is it truly speaking of?

The answer is yes.

I leave you all with an anecdote. The first year I attended of high school, in our homeroom class, we were expected to recite the pledge of allegiance before receiving our day planners. I and a few others refused. We were generally booed by the rest of the class, including a few declarations of “Love it or leave it,” and were asked by the teacher to stay after homeroom. Mind, these were 7-8th graders (Yeah, I know, my high school was weird. The first few years I attended it was 6-12, and still in the accreditation process). After class, we each received a one-on-one reprimand for holding up the class, and told not to make waves while the school was being accredited before receiving our planners and rushing to first period.

It doesn’t seem like a huge thing, but at the core, our education was held hostage to a statement of nationalism. And let me tell you, that was far from the last time I would hear the idiotic anthem of “Love it or leave it” at that school.

In our modern day, the festering tumor of Nationalism is growing in the U.S., and showing no signs of shrinking. Flag-burning, a protected form of protest, is seen by a good portion of the population as a lynch-worthy offense. The piece of cloth, or more often mass-produced plastic, holds more value than a human life. Skipping a few steps, perhaps, but both horrible and hypocritical. The same people calling for flag-burners’ blood don’t even bother following the inane list of rules for “respecting the flag.” They proudly fly their national flags in rain, unlit at night, etc.

Meanwhile, the whole world is watching Great Britain with horror, and quietly hoping that the whole thing crashes around their ears so as to act as a warning to the various Nationalists present in so many other countries. The world is at the same time desperately wishing that it could turn back time, help the British people realize and avoid the coming trauma. The people of Great Britain themselves are reeling, the younger generation that was outvoted by their elders having had countless opportunities ripped from them, the promises that they planned their futures around no longer existing.

Time waits for no one. We can’t go back, but perhaps it is not too late for us over in the U.S. to kill the Buddha in the road. Talk about the issues, don’t pass the blame, and we might just get through this.

I will say the pledge of allegiance when the U.S. deserves it. I will work towards making it a nation that I could be proud of without the risk of falling to nationalism. I will vote for humanitarian policies and candidates. I will acknowledge the problems, shouting the facts as loud as any Nationalist shouts rhetoric.

But until the day comes when a better tomorrow is built for everyone, I will pledge no allegiance to flag or nation. My allegiance belongs to the human race as a whole.


On Death

This post… Hoooooooo. I wrote this a few months ago, before I had actually started the blog. Since then, I have been uncertain about whether or not I actually want to post it. As if not posting it somehow made it less real, if that makes sense.

This is a peek into my brain. Fully in keeping with the utter honesty that I’ve promised.

And boy is this a weighty one.


I found out about the Order of the Good Death today. From what I can tell by their website, it’s a group of end-of-life professionals dedicated to bringing back the concept of “Memento Mori” as something to be embraced as natural and good rather than feared. To quote from their website, “The Order is about making death a part of your life. That means committing to staring down your death fears- whether it be your own death, the death of those you love, the pain of dying, the afterlife (or lack thereof), grief, corpses, bodily decomposition, or all of the above.  Accepting that death itself is natural, but the death anxiety and terror of modern culture are not.”

It hit me like a ton of bricks.

This is something that I’ve got to explain in depth, as it concerns major events in my life that helped define me as the person I am today. Brace yourself, dear reader, because we’re going in-depth with this, my own amateur analysis of my experiences.

The concept of death was introduced to me young. It is for a lot of people, and mine was one of the more classic introductions, the death of a pet. In this case, the cat had been with my family as long as I had been alive, and certainly as long as I could form cognizant thought. He died when I was still in elementary school, so “cognizant thought” may be pushing it, but I was fairly advanced for a child. I never really thought about death before that, even though I was already reading at a High School level and beyond, so I had certainly come across it before in literature, but had never really paid it much mind. It was a story element, one like any other, to be appreciated for what it lent the plot. My pet was no story element. He was a real, breathing creature whose existence I had taken for granted, and then he was gone. My parents had my brother and I write a short letter about our feelings to Roy to be buried with the body in a shoebox in the backyard. Seeing as I only really had literature as a way of experiencing death, I wrote a short fantasy piece to him in the letter rather than putting down the feelings I didn’t know how to express. My parents questioned why I didn’t write down my feelings, and I responded that “I thought it would make him laugh.” To this day, I am uncertain as to why I said that, or why I was anthropomorphizing him, but I’m certain that it speaks volumes to someone with the proper training in child psych.

The incident haunted me for years. It would not be unfair to say that it broke me for a while. Not a great thing to happen to a kid, certainly. I became obsessed with the concept of death, it invading my every thought. I started watching much more TV because the bright colors and wacky audio deadened my brain to the panic I was feeling. However, nothing is so easy to remember as something you are trying to forget, and it came rushing back often, breaking what little stability I had regained. I grew up in the specter of 9/11, and this misunderstood panic that gripped me was only multiplied by that. My elementary school was under 20 miles from an airport, and every plane that passed overhead would trigger a new panic attack. Actually flying in planes was a fear that took me years to overcome. Since my stability of mind was seriously eroded, I even ran out of a spelling test in tears because I had written it in cursive and the teacher requested it printed. I kept myself together by constantly repeating to myself on the lonely walks in between home and school or a friend’s house that I wasn’t going to die, that they would find an immortality drug or something of the sort, that it was all fiction. I went through the usual stages of existential crisis, entertaining the thought that I was the only person and everyone else in the world were simply there to define my reality, questioning everyone about what happens after death, momentarily coming to terms with my own mortality only to panic again when I realized that all of my loved ones were also mortal and had less time left than I, etc. etc.

In other words, highly standard and healthy thoughts for an elementary schooler to grapple with. As I am writing that last sentence, I am honestly unsure how sarcastic it is meant to be. Again, I’m not trained in psychology, so I don’t know. It felt too early for me at the time, but I’m uncertain there is ever a good age for it.

What brought me out of the funk was a good friend of mine, whose company I often sought as a distraction. In my usual desperate manner, I asked him if he believed in reincarnation. He gave it only half a second’s thought before replying “I dunno, but I think I’d like to come back as a horse.” Those words have stuck with me all these years. I won’t say I got better instantly, but it certainly helped. It wasn’t even the words themselves, it was how utterly unconcerned my friend was about the thing that had been quietly destroying my life for a few years. I haven’t talked to this person in years, but as a kid he seemed to be one of the most down-to-earth individuals I had ever met, and his lack of concern told me at that age that it wasn’t something worth worrying about.

Death popped up a few more times in my life in prominent roles. When I was solidly in my depression, I asked my parents to get me someone to talk about it. Full of the 90’s mentality that talking to a “shrink” was weakness and insanity, I asked not to see a therapist. Instead, against my better judgement, I went to my mom’s parents’ priest. I hadn’t really thought of religion as important at this point, since I had read bible stories and judged them to be boring, terribly written literature. Mass with my mom’s family and holiday rituals with my dad’s family were just that in my mind, family rituals, unconnected to anything but ancestral history. Christianity, on the other hand, was a pushy moral code and myths that most people got huffy about if you called them mythology. So I was understandably concerned about going to said priest. However, he didn’t try to convert me or anything, and instead just read to me from a children’s book called “Freddy the Leaf,” in which a leaf on a tree watches his loved leaves die off before accepting the inevitability of his own demise and perishing.

Needless to say, since I was already a wreck, this didn’t do wonders for me at the time. Part of it was that I was almost begging him to lie to me, to say that death was made up, an elaborate and inconsiderate prank. Part of it was that, although he left religion out of it, he talked to me like a child of my age, while my parents had raised me, for better or worse (better I like to think), talking to me as though I was an adult. In any case, a ton of crying took place, and I left the meeting deathly quiet, a quiet that persisted internally for a few days/weeks/months. The timeline is a little uncertain for me, since that isn’t really a mental space I like to revisit. I was convinced that either he had lied to me in that condescending tone, and death was a myth, or death was real and therefor there was no point in living. That was the only time in my life that I had seriously considered suicide, but I didn’t consider it for very long.

Another event was the death of my great-grandmother in my early high school career. She had been a little over/under 100 (and had lied about her age for several birthdays, so I can’t say off the top of my head), and had asked us to come down so that she could see us before she died. I had many legitimate reason that I gave for not making the trip, but the core of it was that I was terrified. She had been old for as long as I had known her, and had all the troubles that came with that, restricted movements and fragile bones and the like. The casual racism held over from outdated morals I can only speak to second-hand, since she didn’t really mention such things when I was visiting. She even teleconferenced in to one of her birthday parties because she was in the hospital. But when she was actually dying of old age… That was something that I couldn’t face. I said that I wanted my memories of her to remain of her joy for life and the like, which was true, but I also wasn’t prepared to face a relative wasting away before my eyes.

At her funeral, I made some small speech about how in performing in “Fiddler on the Roof,” I had come to recognize some more aspects of my Jewish heritage that I hadn’t really thought about before, and with that realization, I offered a slightly tear-choked “L’chaim.” I said “L’chaim” because the Nana Betty that I had known was a person that probably only I remember, an incomplete figure full of life, always eager to take us out to eat, or play cards, or give bright-red staining kisses as a way of saying hello and goodbye. “To life,” because I wanted to remember a living woman, one whom I had only ever seen with the eyes of a child, but who had always been vibrant and alive, even when confined to bed-rest.

A few more times during high school I again returned to that state of deadened depression. One of my friends in the theater died of Muscular Dystrophy, and I mourned him silently. Then, the school faked several students’ deaths for a day, complete with watching a wrecked car being pulled away from school grounds as a med-evac helicopter flew off, culminating in an all-school assembly on the subject of drunk driving which was set up as a wake for the “dead” students. Afterward, we returned to our classes and talked about how the assembly made us feel.

I still find it hard to put into words how that whole setup made me feel. During the mocked crash, I was snarky and sarcastic, wondering how much the cost of the fuel for the helicopter was costing, and saying that the campaign was pointless, that those who weren’t going to drive drunk didn’t need this and that it wasn’t going to make anyone stupid enough to drive drunk reconsider. During the assembly, I was mad enough that, should I have felt so inclined, I would have made a solid effort at literally spitting venom. I was a theater student and reading at a post-collegiate level, but even those qualifiers weren’t necessary to see what was going on. This was theater, and bad theater at that, pulling no punches on melodrama and manipulative heart-wrenches. I was pissed that they could so devalue death as to use it as a cheap scare-em’-straight tactic (I also grew up with DARE. I might have the slightest bit of misanthropy directed specifically at those who attempt scare-em’-straight campaigns.). Once we were back in class, I was both deeply sad and resentful, and upon being called upon to express how I felt, I spitefully commented on my displeasure that the whole school was called out to mourn these fake deaths, but the passing of our friend went without notice. Several of my friends and my teacher were quick to assure me how inappropriate that would have been, and they were right of course, but reason means nothing in the face of childish rage and sorrow.

The thing is, at this point it wasn’t so much death that scared me as it was concept of the cessation of being, of “Oblivion” if you’ll forgive my getting poetic. Death was simply an event to my mind, one like any other, but the nothingness to come… That still terrifies me. I’ve never bought into the concept of death as being at peace, because I don’t see life as inherently strife-filled. I’ve had good days and bad, but I’ve felt on all of them. I, the creature that I am, experienced things. The death of self is what I fear more than the death of flesh, because I am addicted to sensation. I feel, therefore I know I am alive. I want to keep feeling. Who wants to live forever? I certainly wouldn’t mind.

I’m a more educated person than I was when these fears first came upon me. I have lived enough as a thinking human being with a developed mind that I’ve begun to think in certain patterns. For example, I’m an existentialist. I don’t believe in any inherent meaning to the universe, but rather than despair in that fact, I say that it gives me the ultimate power of determining the importance of aspects of my life however I choose to determine them. I define meaning where there is none. What some people call pointless things, I exalt in as the most important things I could be doing. And, since I am always changing, always learning, I can alter that perceived importance at will. Along with this, I have accepted the fact that there exists no strong evidence for existence after death, and that the Oblivion I so fear is the likely outcome of death. I’ve more or less come to terms with it, though I do on occasion have a small relapse where I sit up in bed, swearing softly and unable to sleep for fear of the little death not releasing me this time, that I am closing my eyes and won’t awaken.

And then I come across this Order of the Good Death. The title of the organization grabs me immediately, for it is theatrical and fantastic, evoking vague mysticism and Victorian themes. It sounds like something out of a game or fantasy novel, and I love it. Reading their philosophy brings me joy, because these people are trying to help other people with the very thing that emotionally crippled me for years. Heck, even though I was too young for them to help, I wish that people like them had been around when I was in the depths of my crises.

I want to say that I espouse their philosophy personally, that death is not to be feared. I really do, and to be perfectly honest, I can say that with far more sincerity than I could in previous years of my life, but I’m not there yet.

I am, however, getting there. I have improved by leaps and bounds, and have risen far above my starting point. Memento Mori? I can’t forget it. But no longer does it dominate my thoughts, nor deaden my emotions. I can write about it, I can talk about it, and most importantly, I can live my life despite it. So what if it must come, if life must end? I say L’chaim, and with that I send the air that I breathe rolling out into the greater world. I too must one day rejoin the greater world, my atoms disconnecting only to reconfigure in a new and glorious form. And as for Me? Well, I suppose I’ll just have to wait and see. I’m still in favor of eternal life though, just on the offhand chance the transhumanist sciences pull through for us. But if they don’t, then, well…



Live Theatre and Transience

I am a theatre person.

This can mean many things of course, but for me, it is a summation. I am a Master Electrician/Lighting Designer for live theater by trade. I have acted in the past, and still use the skills that I developed in my everyday life. I like to talk and write about theater. A review/discussion of theatre that I wrote was featured in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s “On the Bricks” e-newsletter (The essay can be found here, on my mom’s blog. Wait, did I just cheat myself out of an easy update? Dang).

I enjoy attending live theatre.

Live theatre is something that doesn’t easily let go once it gets its hooks in you. It is something that is not easily defined or explained, because so much of what one takes from it is defined by the viewer’s own experiences. It is a reflective medium, where two people can draw completely different themes from a show depending on what they see of their own lives in the production, and the culture the play is being produced in. At the same time, it is a show, where a plot is laid out with all possible theatricality for the pleasure of the audience. In some cases, it is a medium of dissidence, of questioning authority. It can be aggressive, pushing the boundaries of what some consider acceptable in their entertainment, forcing the audience to feel, as I like to call it, “artistically uncomfortable.” Theatre’s faces are as many and varied as the faces of humanity.

All of these things can be accomplished in other mediums, to be sure, but to my mind, seeing something live is like falling into a different reality (Which is not to say that you can’t do so with other mediums. I am a voracious reader. I love cinema. I am writing about theatre. Let me be flowery, dangit!). It is a shared reality, in which you are intimately connected with the other members of the audience as well as with the performers.

It is something you will never quite capture again.

That transience, the fact that the moment a performance closes, no other performance will be exactly like it, is what so many people like about live events, theater especially. Hoo boy, do I feel it too. Unfortunately, it can also be one of the most frustrating things about it.

Example: I have had Willkommen, the opening number from Cabaret, stuck in my head all day. I missed the memo on seeing a lot of classic plays or their cinema counterparts, and Cabaret was no different. When I think Cabaret, I am transported to the tiny Oregon Cabaret Theater, an intimate dinner theatre sort of venue, where I was first exposed to the production (One thing you quickly learn in college: Never turn down a free meal or a free show.).

Cabaret 2015 – Sierra Wells, Layli Kayhani, Galloway Stevens, Leah Kolb, Kerry Lambert (photo: Tom Lavine)

Galloway Stevens’ rendition of the song twisted its way into my mind the first night I saw it, and has taken up residence. I think Cabaret, I think this production. Some days, when I have such a piece stuck in my head, I will jump on the internet and look for videos of the play in question, trying to recapture the magic.

It never works.

Cabaret is a show with history. It is a show designed to make the audience “artistically uncomfortable,” and succeeds in doing so quite handily. It has been on Broadway twice, as well as having a movie, all of which are quite popular. In a talk-back my senior class had with many of the cast of this show, Galloway mentioned how the character of the MC had too much history for his rendition to be entirely his own.

When I look back at recordings of the other productions, I see influences, sure. But I only saw one production live. I watch these famous, critically acclaimed productions, and from the first verses of the opening number my brain is screaming that it’s wrong, it’s ever so slightly off.

There is nothing wrong with these famous productions. The actors are quite skilled, and their interpretation of the character is as valid as any other. That being said, the only version I have seen live has established itself as THE interpretation, and my higher brain functions are overruled if I try to think about comparing the performances critically.

It is an involuntary response created by the connection I felt to the live performance, one that is simultaneously magical and infuriating. I can’t recapture the magic of the moment no matter how I try, but the moment is still with me. I love the fact that I was there to experience it, and can distinctly recall everything I loved about the production.

At the end of the day, there will never be another production quite like it. Better, worse, but never the same.

Transience is the word that most use to describe it. Something is beautiful because it is fleeting. Personally, I do not accept that particular thought. To be certain, the experience I had was both beautiful and fleeting, but I reject a causation between the two.

There will never be a performance exactly like the one I saw. I treasure the memory I have of it, and in keeping the memory, I give that performance eternal life. I can’t recapture the magic of seeing it live, as much as I try, but the echoes of that feeling carry on.

My mind is full of these experiences that I refuse to let fade. A hall of glory, part museum, part mausoleum, and constantly in search of new additions to the collection.

As I think about it, at least some of the experience draws from the fact that no art exists in a vacuum. Just as Galloway could not help but judge his performance against the MC’s that came before, I could not help but judge them against the MC I saw first.

<tangent> There is a peculiar trend among theatre-goers that I have talked to in which they recommend looking up a show before seeing it. That way, if one sees a show they do not like, they have no one but themselves to blame. I, on the other hand, quite enjoy seeing theatre with no preconceived notions. There is something about the unprotected experience that draws me in like a moth to the flame. Sure, it’s an easy way to get burned, but one has to accept some risk to get the raw, unadulterated emotion that I love so much. Heck, half of this post has been about seeing Cabaret with no prior knowledge of it. It was seriously one of the most enrapturing theatre experiences of my life thus far.</tangent>

I will now gush.

The Oregon Cabaret Theater is a minuscule space, made even more so by the fact that it is in Ashland and as such is being compared against the OSF. For the purposes of Cabaret, the size is a strength rather than a weakness. The performers wove in and out of the audience in the pre-show, and rather than it being a disruption of the audience-stage barrier, the barrier never existed in the first place. The space is designed for dinner theater, and as such the tables and seating had been modified to seem an extension of the set, complete with phones which the performers could use to call and talk to the patrons. From the moment you walked in, you were in the world of the play, the velvet-and-sequins nightlife world of the Berlin That Was.

The lack of barrier meant that the hardest hitting moments of the performance were never more than a few feet from you at most, the joy, desperation, and fear of the characters was in your face. You could not turn away, and your only recourse should you be overcome was to do as the play’s lines suggested and walk out. No one did, of course. The show deliberately invoked the train wreck effect, masterfully crafting an unsettling scene that the audience could not look away from. Nor did anyone want to.

One of the most fabulous things about the show was revealed in the talk-back, in which the cast discussed the fact that the Cabaret Theater normally did light, fun shows, the sort of thing people expect in their dinner theater spaces. The fact that Cabaret was so subversive in its very production only made it all the more wonderful. For a lot of people I talked to afterwards, the surprising and powerful show really put the Cabaret Theater on the map for Ashland tourists. Their serious show had the effect of making people take them seriously. I love it.

Ok, enough gushing now. I have ranted long and hard about this, as I tend to do with my passions. Time to release it into the wilds.