To Laugh, To Cry, To Learn 1

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”

I watched as Prospero delivered these words during Thunder River Theatre’s recent production of “The Tempest,” recognizing one of the most well-known lines in all of Shakespeare’s canon. It’s been quoted time and again in popular culture, even misquoted, to the point that many aren’t aware of its origins—so to finally hear it live, in its true context, felt powerful.

For me, that’s where the most beautiful significance of the theatre lies: in its timelessness. Today, if we are still managing to find relevant meaning in the 400-year-old words of an island-dwelling sorcerer like Shakespeare’s Prospero, there must be a mystical, ageless, enduring truth in the connection between a performer and his or her audience. That connection is entertaining, yes, but also revelatory in a way that lines four centuries old can suddenly feel more urgent and timely than anything a modern Hollywood film could produce.

In this issue’s article on Sopris Theatre Company, actress (and CMC Vice President and Campus Dean) Heather Exby says that “like all the fine arts, I think theatre allows us to engage in thoughtful exploration of what it means to be human. It challenges us to think and feel deeply about how we live, and what makes us tick.”

In Nicolette Toussaint’s article on Alya Howe, the performance artist echoes that sentiment: “The arts are essential as the heartbeat of the community.”

And in his poignant essay on the last page, Thunder River Theatre director Corey Simpson confides, “We are onstage to challenge ourselves and each other to be completely present and frighteningly vulnerable, to walk on the razor’s edge of our souls, to unabashedly bare our most private selves for the benefit of others. To act as a wake-up siren for the greater good, a living reminder of our shared humanity, whether it be through comedy or tragedy.”

I think they’re onto something there.

And it isn’t just actors and playwrights who step on stage to bring us insight into the human condition—it is also dancers, comedians, puppeteers, improvisers, spoken word poets, magicians, storytellers, and so many other types of performance artists. Fortunately for us, these art forms are all alive and well across the valley.

This month, see a show if you can. We hope the stories in this issue inspire you to remember why we attend live performances in the first place: to laugh, to cry, to learn more about ourselves, and each other.