This afternoon, I’ve been thinking about theater (or, theatre, because I like certain British spellings).
When she was young and broke and carless in a city chockful of autos, the typist would travel from her marginalized neighborhood into the glittery, shiny part of downtown to watch live, free Shakespeare. The company putting on these spectacles would change locale each year, but the settings would always be outdoors … whether in a miraculous arboreal parcel next to an underground mall, or a sunken space with various fountains set on a hill studded with high-rises, somehow they made Shakespeare visible, audible and alive in what many consider a soulless city. Being carless and broke, it was the most accessible theater for the typist. It was well-done, edifying and fun.
I think of theater, and that outdoor Shakespeare, set among the corporate spires, because the thought struck me that roleplay in SL may be analogized to theater, especially improv theater. People develop and advance plotlines, create characters, wear certain costumes … some may even go as far as to make special builds (or considerably tailor existing ones) in which the roleplay occurs. Not to give any shake to SLShakespeare … they do wonderful, intricate work in bringing the experience of RL theater into SL. But all roleplay can be a form of theater, even when the quality is haphazard, or the roleplay is only for a very select audience, or even if the potential audience rejects the RP outright … it is theater and art and a means of expression.
What put me on the path of such thoughts? I wish it were happier news, but it appears that one of the most prominent roleplayers (dramatists?) within the steampunk lands is SL has apparently been banished from the grid by Linden Lab: Doctor Darien James Mason. He does not go into the gory details of what has caused this, but the wording of his post sounds final, as far as his activities on Second Life are concerned. Happily, defiantly, he insists that Dr. Mason is not dead and his stories will continue from other venues. For those of us who are his friends, acquaintances and audience, it is something of a relief that Darien will be accessible in other forums. And yet, for myself, there is anger and confusion … much of the latter. Friends of mine have left the grid, one returned (that I know of) in a different guise, the others … remain gone, as far as I know. There are deaths, and recommitments to RL and the need to excise a part of life that had become too fraught with drama and angst and conflict. But how does one process an exile? Should there be public mourning? Quiet protests? Should one hope against hope for a reprieve from the Powers That Are (because it is truly THEIR world, we just live in it)?
Darien has said “I have spent my virtual life fighting my inner demons. On 9 June, 2009, the demons won.” The point of much art is the fight of inner demons, the imperative to tell a story in one’s own way. I do not know the nature of Darien’s (or his typist’s) inner demon, but he made his fight into an art form. And while doing so, he made friends and contributed to SL in numerous ways (I still remember the Sukkot commemoration at Caledon Penzance last years). Thank you, Darien, for being a host, a builder, a roleplayer, a friend and an artist.
What is the silver lining in this? Well, my typist is going to meet his typist this Saturday while in DC. We’re meeting @ 1 pm at the Royal Mile Pub in Wheaton, MD. My typist tends to natter on a bit and has yet to win any beauty contests, but any and all safe, non-stalkery comers in the are welcome to join us.