Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Theatre of Life

My love affair with theatre (and yes, I'm enough of a theatre geek that I spell it that way, not "theater") began as most do I imagine, in a darkened auditorium, swept away in the wonder and majesty of a beautiful story close enough to touch. A story you feel like you are part of, not witnessing. I was four years old and my mother took me to a production of Camelot at the college she attended. Had it been any other production, I can honestly tell you the course of my life might have been altered. This one evening in my life at such a tender age defined me in ways that I'm only begining to understand.

Of course, what four year old girl isn't rapt with the idea of Kings and Queens and dashing knights in armor, and lovely wicked bastard sons working their evil in dastardly ways? That's what hooked me, I loved sweet selfish Guenivere and doddering and loving Arthur. I was enamored with the narcissistic (go figure) Lancelot and squealed with delight at Mordred's charming flavor of nastiness. But the thing that stuck with me from day one to whatever day I'm on today was the scene where the round table was conceived.

Arthur was a well meaning screw up. He had accidentally become king, it had never been his intention to be king, and he wore the title uncomfortably. Finally in a place with the love of a woman that he adores, he wants desperately to be more than king...he wants to be a GOOD king. He races through their chambers as he dresses pontificating about what it is that his kingdom needs. He knows more than anything that it needs peace. As he wraps himself around the idea that the noblemen, the knights of his kingdom, must personify something new, he thinks about who they are. They are the strongest, both physically and economically, of the land. And with their power, they determine how life is for all others. Their might determines what is right. "Might is right," he disconcertedly mutters to himself. Finally with the help of Guenivere, he begins to realize that as king, he can mold a new heirarchy, where all nobles are equal and given equal consideration. Guenivere offers the use of a huge round table that they were gifted for their wedding so that no one would have the honor of sitting at the head, all people would be equal. And as the idea springs to life, Arthur dashes around the room shouting about his ideal kingdom, ending triumphantly with "Not might is right...might FOR right!"
I was caught and my fate as an idealist, bleeding heart, liberal theatre geek was sealed. Might for right. Might FOR right. It resonates at the very core of my being. It is in everything I feel and I do. I'm a little girl caught in my own fantasy kingdom that didn't quite grow up.

But it isn't such a bad thing.

We all know where that story went. Arthur built his beautiful Camelot into a place more magical than he could have imagined. It attracted people from far and wide, including the man who would be his best friend and who would also destroy it all, Lancelot. And it attracted the attention of a bitter son who would have them all die in bitter dissapointment for the sins of his father.
"Don't let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment, that was known as Camelot."

Ok, so if you aren't a theatre person, or don't know the show, I'm probably taking lots for granted. But in the final scene as Camelot crumbles, Arthur sends a young boy out into the world, comanding him to hide and be safe, to live a long and fruitful life, and to tell anyone who would listen about the beauty and the joy that Camelot had brought.

"Run boy, RUN!"

And I was that boy. I'm still fighting the fight, dreaming the dream. And I'm enamored by the fact that my own Lancelot didn't destroy the dream. And I'm wondering if maybe there's a round table hidden in a dungeon somewhere in the depths of my soul that I need to drag out, clean up, and put to use.

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