Nov 2020 Blogathon: Jenny Gantwerker

It is Brelby tradition to dedicate the month of November to giving a platform for our artists to share their stories. This month our annual Blogathon theme is “Shifting Perspectives”. We’ve spent a large portion of 2020 with our stage dark, but that doesn’t mean that our artists haven’t been growing, changing and creating. This year we asked them, “How has the pandemic impacted your perspective on theatre, the arts, and life? What are your hopes for the future of theatre?”
Enjoy this year’s series.

Jenny Gantwerker

I recently became aware that one of the accepted definitions of the word “literally” is now…that’s right, “figuratively.”  What a bewildering turn of events!  I thought.  What do words even mean anymore?  How can the very definition of a word be its opposite?  What has this world come to?

But that’s 2020 for you, isn’t it?  Things that once seemed to be obvious truths are no longer so obvious.  Solid, comforting concepts like community, science, and even time itself are becoming fuzzy and nebulous somehow, their meanings suddenly up for debate.  Bewildering doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Which is why I am so grateful to be an artist.

I once read an interview with Helen Mirren in which she was asked whether she thought being an actor made people better at lying.  Her response was that people who have committed crimes lie utterly convincingly all the time.  “Actors, on the contrary, I think would find it difficult to do that.  In the process of acting, actors are always trying to find the truth.”

That search for truth is, I think, at the heart of why many artists do what they do – to capture the truth of a situation in the words of a play, or a truth about humanity in their portrayal of a character, or the true essence of an object in the brush strokes of a painting.  To an artist, the truth may be painful, or ugly, or maybe even elusive, but it is unquestionably of value, and it must be pursued above all else.

This year has made so many things seem murky, but the artist in me knows that truth exists, and the relentless pursuit of artistic creation that I have seen in so many of my friends during these bewildering times is a constant reminder that there are so, so many of us out there relentlessly seeking truth.

That doesn’t mean that, on an individual level, I think all artists are incapable of lying, or that “I’m an actor” is an adequate response to “Can I trust you?”  Human nature often defies generalization, but, at least for me, in this case the larger point easily survives the inevitable exceptions.

When the world shrank, and so much of life began to exist solely on screens, the artists in my life sprang immediately into action, trying in the face of unprecedented challenges to hold on to some semblance of what we do.  And maybe some of it was the result of boredom, and some the result of loneliness, and some the result of financial distress – all of those are valid concerns, especially these days.  But what I see at the heart of most of these efforts is the need to maintain an anchor point in the midst of this year’s aggressive onslaught of confusion, a place where the truth still exists, where the truth still matters.

And when things return, someday, to something approaching familiar, my dearest hope is that these efforts will have been successful.  Literally.

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