We asked [color]Andrew Tay[/color] to discuss the spirituality of a shared experience. He replied with ruminations on ritual, mythology, aliens and the “sit, watch, and shut up” approach to theatre.
I think one of the main reasons people look toward spirituality is for comfort. When faced with things that have no explanation, or we can’t control, we get scared…. Things we can’t see – like our future, death, and the unconscious mind are terrifying for a lot of people. I find it fascinating that this fear has motivated us to create some strange (dare I say queer?) coping mechanisms to make us feel better about these unknowns. We develop practices and rituals to help us have a dialogue with these abstract ideas, and we create fantastic mythologies that can take on spiritual properties.
Have you ever heard the following? “Angels are watching over us.”, “There is intelligent life out there….we are not alone.” Are these ideas spiritual? Certainly they provide comfort and hope, and connect us to something greater than ourselves. These ideas have permeated pop culture, and even those who claim to not be spiritual might believe in one of these (or other similar) ideas. How does modern society access spirituality? And do they even know when they are doing it?
In the work that I’m presenting at Rhubarb, I’ll attempt to address some of these concerns by creating a shared experience between myself and the audience. Don’t be scared, I won’t be asking you to dance on stage with me (although that could be fun!), but I do hope to engage a higher level of investment in the performance than the typical “buy your ticket, sit, watch and shut up” approach. You could say I’m taking a cue from some of the oldest spiritual practices. Collective experiences like chanting and group physical actions such as kneeling down together exist in most time honored rituals and religions. I would also argue that going to a music concert and singing along with the performers qualifies as a spiritual experience for people today. The power that can be found in this type of participation is something that most spiritual practices make use of, creating a connection between individuals that becomes an integral part of the spiritual experience.
In Monsters, Angels and Aliens are not a Substitute for Spirituality…I’m also looking to engage the public in a dialogue about this kind of connection. During the performance I’ll experiment with different ways to connect myself to individuals from the audience, find strategies to connect the audience together as a whole, and ways to connect us collectively to the world outside the walls of the theatre.
I will not be taking you to church with this piece and we won’t be holding hands and singing (in case you thought I was going in that direction)…sometimes I will just dance for you! But hopefully it will be a cool way for us to reflect on the sometimes taboo topic of connection and faith regardless of whether you’re into Buddhism or if you’re more into UFO’s.
Andrew’s show Monsters, Angels and Aliens are not a Substitute for Spirituality is on stage at Rhubarb February 27-March 3. For more info, click here.
Visit Andrew’s website here, or check out his tumblr