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I’ve been reading  a lot about Gaslighting lately.  It’s fascinating because the term is from a play and film called, “Gaslight”.

It was Angela Lansbury’s first film.  She turned 18 on the set.  And it was Ingrid Bergman’s first Oscar-win.  Ingrid Bergman who worked for Hitchcock. The Bergman of Casablanca.  And, the beloved Lansbury.  Shooting on the set together for “Gaslight” in the infancy of their amazing careers.  Two women with the grace and generosity of an unknown Universe.  Humble, gentle, real, gifted, courageous, funny, indelible, and long-standing artistically.  Seemingly superhuman.

Another name that keeps coming up on the Gaslight remake is Christopher Reeve.  Superman.

The term that has come to represent deception, gaslighting, was born in the womb of some of the most generous spirits to walk the planet.  Born of film noir talent and style.  Add in that villian Vincent Price as Mr. Manningham on Broadway in 1942 where-interestingly enough-the American title was “Angel Street”, and we’ve got something incredible here.  We’ve got one of the longest running non musicals in Broadway history.  One of the most produced plays…ever.  AND…a  word.  A descriptive.  Nay, a psychological term.

This brings me around to my point.  Pop culture.  It effects everything.  It’s a liquid.  It seeps in.  You can wear vinyl and open your umbrella, but even the most resistant and best liquid-proofed factions of society will at least step into a puddle of pop-culture.  This goes to Pattie Hurst and the Stockholm Syndrome as well.  Pop-culture.  It seeps into everything.

Culture.

And here’s where I stumble.  How do I -1. argue the value of storytelling?  How do I-2.  make the case about the importance of telling powerful stories of women for the betterment of the culture as a whole?  How do I fight so many battles at once before putting the key into the door of my theatre and turning on the lights to -3. bring in new work?

My best option as I see it is to look at the Bergman’s and the Lansbury’s and the Supermen and the Wonder Women.  Look at the grace and find the gratitude.  Embrace the evolution where I can detect it.  Because this play that became a film 60 years ago reaches into the lives of women in particular today and gives us all a language.  It may not have been in the text of Freud.  But, it’s in our storytelling history.  We know this.  We can come to understand that when disbelief, defensiveness, and depression roll in something may be wrong with the situation and not necessarily the chemistry in our head.  This flies in the face of modern psychology.  But, we know.  And we keep moving.   And we keep seeking.  And we keep telling the story.  And, presto-chango POOF! psychology has new terms!

If the stories out there are full of video games where women are prostituted, raped for points then thrown in a trunk?  If the stories haven’t caught up with the day and are antiquated and unrelatable, then we are hollowing out a sacred ground that existed long before print.  When stories become soundbytes under 3 minutes our brains wire themselves accordingly.  We lose patience.  We lose focus.  We lose the ability to journey, to connect, to experience the catharsis.  Catharsis, then becomes C3 in the junk food machine at the end of the hall with the ugly lightbulb and dead dehydrated fly in the bottom right corner of the glass box.  Tempting.

The sacred land of story is limitless, it is lush.  It wants its audience to become lost there.  To really take the journey without tweeting.  Taste it.  Smell it.  Bask in its specific light and temperature.  To discover connections and experiences and then let all of that land on a human level.  It takes time.  It takes exploration.  It takes something called process.  “Let it land”.  How many times have I said that to myself while directing work?  The temptation to twist the ending because we are out of time.  Or because, it’s the acceptable thing.  These things don’t resonate with the human spirit.  They are objects to be polished and sold despite the dead fly.  But, rarely experiences that speak to the sacred power of story.  Because you must take the journey to arrive at the story.

Gaslighting.

huh.

For those of us who have been exposed to dangerous people, as artists that’s probably 100%, and as women that’s statistically 80%.  If you are one of the lucky 20% celebrate that.  PLEASE.  Don’t feel left out, as I hear articulated.  We need MORE of you, not less.  For we the 80%, the language changes everything.  And, we need to keep going.  We should have more Bergaman’s and Lansbury’s and Reeve’s, not fewer.  We should be moving forward.  Trusting more, not less.

My job is to articulate this through numbers now.  Get out of the room and seek funding to insure the future of my Company.  To show how art saves lives.  And, it does.  The ability to conceive story changes the whole world.  And the stories we compose collectively say something about who we are.  They are the map that tells us where we’ve been and where we are going.  If we hollow these things out.  If we begin to imitate the imitations we lose our innovator’s.  We need our innovator’s.  We need our real storytellers.  Not the people who have the best chance of selling the tickets that will sell the product that will become the cute cereal brand that sugars us all up.  But, the people who weave compelling stories and offer a new perspective. Even if it offends.  Even if it flies in the face of a popular notion.  We need that power, the right to disagree but EMPATHIZE on a human level just the same.

Culture.

Pop culture.

huh.  What is it I’m trying to say here?

When the money is not there for those of us producing edgy theatre, we are criticised for that insane fact.  We are judged for not bringing in the production values and marketing campaigns of those on the other side of the million dollar chasm, even when we are given the highest of marks artistically.  When we bring in new works by living playwrights and are supposed to feel so grateful for a calender mention with a societal voice telling us how lucky we are to get that attention.  When we’ve delivered and are treated like we’ve missed the mark.  When we have done our job and merely expect the rest of the theatrical family to show up and do theirs…

And here’s a just one of many of my stories.  Venus produced a US premiere of a play by the highly decorated Migdalia Cruz.  It was called, “Cigarettes and Moby Dick”.  It was in 2005, 5 years ago.  People are still talking about that show.  It got a Curve Magazine Play of the Year Award.  I staged it in the Warehouse attic on 7th Street.  It did not get coverage in the large paper.  Another show running at the exact same time did.  It was written by a first-time playwright with a script that didn’t begin to come close to Cruz’s work, and that run was extended by a week.  Cruz came in from Cape Cod with two of her contemporaries.  We’d sent out the press releases.  Disbelief.  I was outraged and wanted to stop producing.  Defensiveness.  Where are the people who hold the artistic bar?  Depression.

Disbelief.  Defensiveness.  Depression.

When we are overlooked despite doing award winning work, we are at the very essence being gaslighted.  There’s an expectation we should view this as “Angel Street”.

GASLIGHT!

Period.

That’s it.

Let’s move on…

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