There is a well-known, resonant Picasso quote that is pulled out for all sorts of occasions: “Art is the lie that helps us see the truth.” And I think we have probably all taken in a work of art that in a moment seemed to shatter an illusion, clarify a feeling, or instigate a sudden understanding that seemed real, profound, or to use Picasso’s word, true. And I can personally remember so clearly those moments when a piece of theater has changed my life, pushed me in some new direction. These experiences are what have sustained me through my years of creating theater.
But ours is such a cynical age — and how can it not be with our “alternative facts” and “fake news”? And I too have long suspected the “truths” that so much political theater provides. Yes, I have often been moved and I’ve congratulated the artists and left the theater thinking about the incompleteness of the answers or worse, criticizing the extremity of the passions. Should theater even try to be a repository of political answers? “If you’ve got a message,” the adage goes,“ call Western Union.”
But as artists, as citizens of the world, don’t we have to address what’s happening in Syria? (Even our obtuse and willfully ignorant President has looked up from his beautiful piece of chocolate cake to take it in.) But how are we to respond to a tragic situation as severe and confused as the crisis in Syria? And with what authenticity? You watch these videos of bloody, war-trapped Syrians or the boatfuls of shell-shocked and emaciated refugees and you want to fly there immediately to give food and wrap wounds and try to dry some child’s tears. And maybe some of you will admirably go on to do just that.
But as artists, like the “actors” in what you’ve just seen tonight, we also want to respond artistically, but how? It’s impossible, isn’t it? I know in my regular life I am sometimes so afraid of saying the wrong thing that I end up saying nothing at all. But I don’t think theater can do that. It’s a duty, handed down from Aeschylus and Euripides and countless others to depict in any way we can — symbols, metaphors, images, stories – the crises our time faces of whatever magnitude we’re given. Theater just has to respond and respond, and get it right and get it wrong, and try and fail, and fail again and try to, as the master Beckett said, “fail better.”
So as you probably noticed, we have lied to you a lot tonight. And we have failed even more as we attempted a stammering “political” response to the kaleidoscopic Syrian tragedy. But we didn’t give up. We kept trying and trying. And through Ameera’s and Guillermo’s plays, we’ve tried to present an experience that we hope will resonate more than a message.
— Bart DeLorenzo, April 27, 2017