As 2011 drew to a close and the New Year was ushered in with dropping balls and cheap champagne toasts, I contemplated the first Director's Notes blog of 2012 to kick off this new set of 365 days.
What big sizzler could I start the New Year with?
A blog about how the Buffalo News Arts reviewer Colin Dabkowski's non-sensical, written near-deadline columns that do absolutely nothing for the WNY Arts Community as a whole?
Nah, that can go without saying.
The over-saturation of yuppie magazines like The Block Club that are comprised of 85% advertisement with the the rest of the glossy garbage filled with cute, psuedo-urban/intellectual articles about the same city faces and the same city places?
Boring, like those magazines.
How some cultural groups, who receive Erie County public, Fund for the Arts and/or Give for Greatness money, can take out full-page ads or purchase time on billboards dotted along the 33 despite the Cultural Groups facing tough economic times?
Intriguing, but that seems to be status quo.
So there I was, staring out the window at a green January when the phone rang.
On the other line was an American Repertory Theater of WNY alumni, and a friend of mine. We started the conversation off in a pleasant exchange but their voice began to waver and eventually crack after this person told me about some impending medical news that could have dire consequences.
In the Arts World, we are constantly reminded of the human condition. Once in a while, we come across a work of art or a particular theatrical piece that moves and brings us to closer to humanity without the realism behind it, a la "Art Imitates Life".
Then there is the real "life".
When one hears about another's fear of the unknown, in whatever circumstance, this expressed realism truly connects us as human beings. We don't hear the words or see the actions synthesized by an actor, a painter or musician. That emotion is coming from a real place and not some pretended creative action.
There I was chatting with this individual about the possibility of their leaving Buffalo to be with family depending on what the medical report determines. In this conversation there was tears and sadness, but not because of the uncertainty or the potential inevitable outcome. It was because this individual was emotionally burdened by the thought of having to move to join their family and would have to leave friends and this "wonderful" theater community behind.
This individual may be faced with mortality and yet it was more emotionally devastating to contemplate leaving this area and all the good things this person has been part of.
What makes this even more compelling is that this individual did not grow up in this region and attend the same high schools or colleges like all Buffalonians. When this person moved to Buffalo, there was nobody they knew and, yet, was able to carve out a great acting career and build a good circle of friends.
These are the types of human condition stories that fly under the radar yet contain so much richness and speaks volumes about this community.
As we finished our conversation, this personal revelation effected me far more than a play with fake British Isle accents. The obvious effect being eventual mortality and a perspective of one's life while underneath, upon further rumination, the context of this person's story in the region we live.
Despite all the external (and internal) distractions, the Western New York Arts scene is a strong community. Indeed it has as many problems as a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic uncle during the Holidays, but there are some good folks trying to make the best out of this community without having to be seen as the spokesperson for every Arts advocacy group.
And the first thing they do is make the conscious choice to remain in this area.
I have faith that my friend will beat this medical setback and return to ART's stage, am proud that this person has included me in their circle of friends, and, regardless of the perceived sadness, find this individual's story somewhat of a success for us who remain in Western New York and continue to be part of the Arts community.