My social media these days is filled with articles, essays, calls-to-action, videos, photographs, memes, and invitations to join Facebook groups, all in response to the results of the presidential election. No doubt your newsfeed looks like mine, especially if you have, as I do, friends and family who live and breathe both sides of the political duel.
I feel as though they've left a seat for me at the table. They are waiting for me to enter the fray, to toss in my two cents. But if you read my essay published in The Timberline Review, "Why I Didn't Go to the Fire House," about how I responded in the minutes after I learned the awful news of what was happening at my son's school, Sandy Hook Elementary, that December day in 2012, you'll learn I'm not inclined to move with the masses. I tend to take a step back so I can see more clearly the answer to the question I ask in times of difficulty: "What am I supposed to be doing?" There is work to be done and I'm seeking that work that I, because of personality, opportunity or circumstance, am best suited to do. I'm seeking the answer most in line with who I am and what I believe.
This means I'm not going to re-iterate what's already being said, post what's already being posted, or join groups that are or will soon become echo chambers. But it doesn't mean I sit back and watch.
Of the many quotes being shared now, my favorite is the Toni Morrison one in which she says, "This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal." So here I am writing, but not of what you might expect.
What will you say when I tell you this? I've found my work, for now anyway, and it's all about frolicking about on a stage carrying an enormous scepter-like wand ”a wand that sprinkles glitter. "
I've been in rehearsals, along with my 12-year-old son, for a community production of "A Christmas Carol." I play the Ghost of Christmas Present. The story is a favorite of mine and I've consumed many versions every year since childhood (Favorite: the Alistair Sim version. My favorite portrayal of Christmas Present: Edward Woodward from the George C. Scott version). As I work on the show I am, in a way, creating a character but in a very important way I'm not. The director, Michael Unger, likes to remind us he's cast us in our roles to be ourselves, not someone else.
This Christmas Present that I am is, I hope, joyful and playful but,and this is a pretty big BUT, she's impatient to the point of anger when she perceives stinginess and a lack of compassion or empathy. Lately I've been stunned and heartbroken by what I've read about the way people on both sides of the political debate have been treating each other. I channel that energy into my interactions with Scrooge. There are times when I definitely want to knock him upside the head with my wand. But I know my business is to make the better choice which is to keep sprinkling the glitter, a visual, physical reminder of all the things Marley's ghost tells Scrooge is his business: charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence. Likewise, amid the flurry of political posts, it's my business to post a photograph of me at rehearsal whirling and wielding my wand, happy to lend a smile and perhaps a touch of silliness into the lives of my family and friends.
By the way, I'm not an actor. And doing this work is challenging for me on many levels. But I think about what I've learned from reading the Harry Potter books: the wand chooses the wizard, and the best wizards are the ones who are most capable of channeling the personal strength and energy the wand already senses within them. So if I'm true to who I am and what I believe and if I can communicate to the audience with every glittering particle I send out from my wand to consider for themselves Scrooge's lesson of what this holiday season is all about and what we can be and achieve when we choose to reach for our better angels, then I will consider my work done.
Sophfronia is appearing in the NewArts/Walnut Hill Community Church production of "A Christmas Carol" in Bethel, Connecticut December 9-22.
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