BLOG – Where is everybody?
- Published: August 31, 2011
As you might know if you’ve read this blog before, part of my job at the Yellow Springs News is to edit any incoming submissions from the community at large before they’re printed in the paper. A few days ago, a letter to the editor showed up in my e-mail inbox from Kay Reimers that really intrigued me. The letter was announcing the second annual Ten Minute Play Festival, where writers submit an original script of up to ten minutes in performance length. Winners, as I recall, are invited to have their scripts performed in front of an audience. In the letter, Kay briefly mentions her surprise that, last year, the vast majority of entrants were not from Yellow Springs. The letter to which I refer will appear in tomorrow’s Yellow Springs News, so I won’t paraphrase much more, but I will say that I found her message interesting.
My partner Anthony and I, upstarts that we are, decided earlier this year to begin a series of literary readings in Yellow Springs. So far, we’ve had a lot of fun with it, bringing our fellow writers out, introducing them to Yellow Springs, and enjoying their work as they share it. It’s the kind of thing we love to attend.
But the thing we’ve noticed, each time we host one of these events, is that attendance by locals is painfully scant.
As Anthony and I gear up to put on another reading next week, I have found myself wondering why. Perhaps it’s because the writers we have featured, so far, are neither local, nor extraordinarily famous, and are thus unknown to the community at large. But that can’t be right. Part of loving literature is taking chances on new writing. And what’s the fun in hearing from somebody if you’ve already heard what they have to say?
Or maybe it’s because people just don’t like us. But, of course, we’re still newbies, and don’t yet have the kind of community clout that it requires to be hated.
Then it must be the event itself that’s unsavory. But Yellow Springs has long been touted as a place that loves and embraces the arts, in all its forms.
I haven’t met Kay Reimers in person, but I exchanged a few e-mails with her after receiving her letter to the editor, trying to pick her brain for any explanations that she, a local, might have. It’s possible, she postulated, that because we’re such a small town with so much going on, that “it all becomes white noise…to be fair to the audience, there are so many art activities bidding for their attention in this town, it can be overwhelming.”
This wonderful town involves so much cultural expression that is, for lack of a better word, interactive. You can go down to the Emporium of a Friday night, have a glass of wine, converse with comrades and get up and dance to lively local tunes. Likewise, during Third Friday Fling, not only are you invited to view scads of amazing art, in many various media, but you are allowed, nay, encouraged to do so while engaging in conversation with the artists themselves. Also, again, there’s wine. (Mental note: start giving out booze.)
One thing you are not forced to be at these colorful, lively events, is an audience.
When you get down to it, it’s sort of a big job to be an audience. Yes, a certain amount of decorum is expected. You can’t walk around. You can’t leave in the middle. You can’t listen to your headphones. You can’t play Scrabble on your cell phone. You can’t check Facebook on your cellphone. There can, in fact, be no sound emanating from your cellular telephone device at all, ever, period.
Most importantly, you can’t talk. I find that a lot of people, myself included, if we’re being honest, have a problem with this sort of thing. Not talk? Not be the one saying something? It’s hardly realistic, right?
But there’s something so blissful, if you will let yourself, about giving up the floor to someone else. There is a great peace in listening to someone, in realizing that it’s not just that you shouldn’t speak, but that you are being given the privilege of not being required to speak. But beyond that, there’s the chance to see what could be an excellent play, to hear what could be a brilliant new piece of literature. More importantly, it’s a chance to spend time with a community of fellow writers, of fellow lovers-of-the-craft. What could be better than that?
It is the case, of course, that we writers can tend to be a reclusive bunch. It’s also the case that, whether we’d like to admit it or not, that we all, deep inside, think we’re brilliant. Or if not now, we think we might someday be brilliant. And we like to share that knowledge with our fellow writers.
We’re here to give you that chance.
So come out of hiding, writers and the people who love writers! Come out and support your fellow dreamers and schemers, your fellow poets and storytellers. And, this is the best part, come out and show us what you’ve been working on. If you think you’ve got something worth sharing, why not participate in one of our literary readings? If you’d like to try your hand at being a playwright, why not enter a script contest, totally free, I might add? If you don’t fit either of these descriptions, but still think you’ve got something to add, why don’t you e-mail me anyway?
But most importantly: come out and participate, come out and be an audience for your fellow artists and community members. At the very least, come out and eat the food, because seriously, I don’t have anymore room in my fridge.