Personal Map of the World

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I have been mulling a gorgeous and evocative essay by Lyn Gardner entitled “Theatres and the ties that bind us” in The Guardian Monday 15 February 2010. A favorite passage from Gardner’s essay:

“A theatre, particularly when it’s local, can be an essential part of the fabric of people’s lives, part of their own personal maps of the world.”

Map of the world. Theaters as points on our personal maps of that world. Every part of this sentiment is so much a part of my personal vernacular that I almost can’t speak about it. Each day, each trip, each new city home base provides new contributions to these maps. Accumulations of experience and documentation (journal scribblings or otherwise) form an idiosyncratically synchronized, uniquely synthesized record of the multi-layered, multi-boundaried, multi dimensional worlds and places of my life.

Amsterdam’s canals and cheese and ganja and people who look like my relatives all around me. Parisian museums and pastries, romantic walks along the Seine and rushing through the Louvre and loving the D’Orsay more for its shadows and light and passing walkway people through opaque glass than many of the exhibits on several visits, a surprise showing of Matisse drawings of stained glass windows in a Jerusalem chapel, pearls in the window at Mikimoto, and trying to get into the bar at the Ritz when it was closed.  Mishkenot Sha’ananim and Tel Aviv and Nazareth and armed escorts and putting my toes in the Mediterranean at Caesaria. London damp, sunburns in May, and the surprise of clear crisp sunshine for days in a row in November in Hyde Park. The Deco bar at Claridge’s and the Samuel French bookstore in Bloomsbury. Bookstores from Vermont to San Francisco, and road side attractions from cross-country car trips in multiple decades. Bits of knowledge that provide pockets of comfort in a complicated and fascinating world. And New York City visits for 40 years will now be culled for details to assemble, update, augment, replace, enhance during our next relocation. Shift from chance visit to everyday location.

And so we circle back to theaters. Physical spaces that become familiar even when the performance is in a language other than my own. Box office routines, the quirks of the restroom queues, the locations of the nearest bars, the sweet personal knowledge of rehearsal halls and emotional moments of discovery and repeat visits with people we love to the same seats, the same lobbies, rooting the regulars and being surprised by new discoveries on and off the stage.

All this = home. The world’s a stage. Yes it is.  A personal one.

© Martha Wade Steketee (February 19, 2010)

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