Tusitala Publishing

 

Acts of Service cover

Acts of Service
Spontaneity, Commitment, Tradition
in the Nonscripted Theatre
by Jonathan Fox

$27.00 | 1994 | 286 pages
ISBN 978-0-9642350-0-7

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On Spontaneity

Spontaneity first requires that the senses be open to information from the environment. To accomplish this receptor task, we must be in the moment, animal-like. Second, we must be able to stand outside the moment to make sense of what is occurring. We can then take action—that is, perform a conscious act—which is no small achievement. This action will in turn create a new environmental condition. Thus, spontaneity is the ability to maintain a free-flowing constantly self-adjusting cycle of sensory input, evaluation, and action. Bateson said, "It is the attempt to separate intellect from emotion that is monstrous, and I suggest that it is equally monstrous—and dangerous—to attempt to separate the external mind from the internal. Or to separate mind from body."

Spontaneity, then, means more than quickness of action. It means choice of action. This concept, existential in flavor, describes humankind dealing with a phenomenologically dynamic social universe which our need for meaning motivates us to try to understand. Faced with this condition, the human mind, or what Bateson refers to as Mind, has a remarkable ability for adaptation and invention. It is connected to our capacity for play, but calls upon our highest intelligence. Improvisational performance highlights this form of genius, reminding us publicly that spontaneity, in the fullest sense, is the inheritance of us all.

 


 

On Service

One of my favorite performances was for a group of Head Start teachers (Head Start is an inner-city prekindergarten program). They wanted us to come and perform on their staff development day, but they could pay no more than a small part of our fee. They were meeting in a church basement, a small, cluttered room, most unenterprising for our purposes. However, it was their world, and we entered it gladly. Their need for us was great, for their task was overwhelming—many of the children they taught, and their parents, faced tremendous problems—and the support the teachers received, in salary, work conditions, and training, was minimal. While the teachers sat on kindergarten chairs, we acted out their stories. They laughed till they cried. And they simply cried. Afterwards I was euphoric. I felt, "This is what we are meant for!" And all the while our support was no more munificent or long-lasting than theirs.

Such experiences confirm my belief in a citizen actor, who performs as needed by the community, then melts back into the social fabric—a modern answer to the aboriginals "of high degree" who live as ordinary tribespeople except when they are needed.

Even greater than the humility needed for such a concept is the courage of the true healer. Life—yours, mine—is difficult enough, but to voluntarily absorb the pain and problems of others, face the challenge of their dilemmas, seek to guide them toward new visions—this takes a particular kind of commitment.

Service without security, without fanfare, without adulation.


 

 

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