Sunday, May 12, 2013

My First German Theater Experience or Crying in Public: A Guide (?!)

There is a learning curve associated with travel, especially international travel. Jet lag allows you to accomplish things very slowly and inefficiently. Throw in a little culture shock and some summer camp style anxiety and you got yourself a pretty thick soup if you catch my drift. Anyway three days in to the trip was our first theater excursion to a performance made up of 10 or so mentally disabled performers called Disabled Theater. This ruined me beyond comprehension. Due to aforementioned factors, sheer stupidity, and the hands of fate I missed this performance. (Public transportation is full of surprises and an hour is simply not enough time to traverse the city of Berlin.) Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately for her, I was not alone in this colossal goof so the following day me and Molly, the other colossal goofer, make our way to Neu Köln to get tickets to Disabled Theater, which appears to be a long shot. Like the previous day, there is little time and mild confusion associated with the U-Bahn and the feelings of incompetence, shame, and being a failure run through my brain. Once again, we have fricked this up royally. BUT IT JUST ISN'T TRUE. We reach the theater in a timely fashion and Molly buys two tickets from a very nice young woman outside the show for 10 Euro each! My heart can finally rest.

Perhaps you are wondering what the importance of telling you all these menial and over-the-top emotional personal reactions is. I must show to you all that I was going THROUGH. IT. I'm a 6 ft. 1, 260 lbs, blubbering baby at this point. I want someone to rub my belly and tell me it's all going to be ok as Enya or Dido plays in the background. I am going through a subtle internal crisis and it is useless, stupid, and ostentatious.  

But the show. THE SHOW. The stage is empty besides a half circle of chairs and is lit by one spotlight. There is a moderator on the side of the stage who offers English and German translation because the actors only speak Swiss German. One by one, each actor comes out and stands silently before the audience for a minute. Some of the actors have Down's Syndrome, some have learning disabilities. This causes some discomfort--is this a freakshow? I was reminded of the slave trade. But I move past this and attempt to see them, just see them. I decide that this isn't a supposed freakshow and these are just people, the point is to see them as people. Which is beautiful. To look past the physical, an act that forces the seer to open up their heart and get over their own insecurities. To gap the bridge for others as means to gap the bridge for yourself. My throat begins to get a little itchy and I bite my lip.

Next they introduce themselves. Name Age Occupation.

Then their handicap. It started simply. "I am so and so and I have a learning weakness. I can't remember information very well." "I have Down's Syndrome." Then: "I have Down's Syndrome and I'm sorry." A modest little tear falls out. You got this Jacob, pull it together. THEN: "I don't know." Another slow little tear. AND THEN: "I am a Mongoloid. I am a fucking Mongoloid. Sometimes it is like yes and sometimes it is like no." You have 10 seconds before the levee breaks, man up Jacob. AND. THEN: "I have slight autism and a learning disability. I am not very different from the so-called normals but that is almost a good thing." May the odds be ever in your favor bitch cuz' you are about to weep in public.

Each actor then goes on to perform a dance solo they choreographed to music they chose. I will not mince words here. These solos were my favorite thing I have ever seen in my life ever. Not just in theater but in the world, flowers and Zac Efron and cheese included. And I really love all of those things a lot.

The thing was they were so happy. The joy...the joy I felt with them (not FOR them and I think that is important) was something I've never felt before. It was so real, it became surreal.

One girl danced to Michael Jackson's They Don't Really Care About Us which was beyond, beyond what I could ever put into words.

If you couldn't tell I can't put any of this into words and that's why I am rambling but ride with me. I think what it was is that I saw myself in her or perhaps the person I want to become. She was showing us her self, her passion, her life, her smile, her everything and that's something I cannot even show myself, let alone an audience of people. These people we see as disabled, not able to live properly, these people are happier than I could fathom being. These people, who we have deemed as broken or incomplete, they love themselves more than I do, probably more than you love yourself. And they are so sure of themselves. So true to who they know in their hearts they are. AND ISN'T THAT THE FRIGGIN POINT OF LIFE? TO REACH THAT SURENESS, TO LOVE YOURSELF SO OTHERS CAN LOVE YOU TOO? I'm a pretty gapingly huge cynic and I remember thinking to myself "I believe in humanity, I believe in the goodness of people."

Another thing. After each person did their solo, they would take care of each other. Whether it was by allowing the dancer to rest on your shoulder or feeling the beat with the soloist or helping each other open up water bottles. The kindness they showed for one another was beautiful, perhaps the definition of beautiful. It was the simple kindness we do not have for one another, especially not for people who are handicapped. If I was their mother, I would see that and think that I had done my job correctly, I had raised a wonderful child who can love and smile and I'm not going to cry in public again so that is all folks.

I kind of lost track of the guide to crying in public so here are the main tips.
1) Use your t-shirt as a Kleenex, it's right there under your nose.
2) If your public crying lasts longer than 10 minutes, just give into completely so you don't do that ugly cry that only happens when you are trying to not cry.

3) Don't be afraid to look at other people while crying. They will either smile at you to make you feel better or start crying too and those are two positive things in my eyes.
4) Don't try to talk to other people whilst public crying. You will embarrass yourself far beyond how much you already are embarrassing yourself.

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee,
    The image can be seen at who can supply you with a canvas print of it.