Reflections is written by Island Fellows, recent college grads who do community service work on Maine islands and in coastal communities through the Island Institute, publisher of The Working Waterfront.
By Mark Macey
Originally, this column was going to be about Dear Elizabeth, a play I directed for Stage East, here in Eastport. Being a reader of The Working Waterfront, you likely saw the lovely photo spread of the show in the April issue. I looked forward to writing about that experience, but as I sat down to do so, the words wouldn’t come. In the face of this pandemic, there’s something else I feel takes precedence.
First, I’m proud to say that the Eastport Arts Center and Stage East have moved much of their programming online. For myself, I’m continuing to run Laugh Lab, a sketch comedy class, and Children’s Theatre Workshop, a theatre program for youth—all online.
I’m also managing an online, multi-disciplinary project called Life in Washington County for Stage East. We have over 30 participants involved and look forward to sharing everyone’s work. It’s been a time of adjustment and change, and for organizations dedicated to bringing people together, a challenge to think outside the box. But it’s not these efforts I’m interested in exploring. I want to talk about what art can do for you right here, right now.
Art, at its simplest, is communication. We say something by making art, something that we can’t say any other way. What we say can be social, political, psychological, etc. It can be clear or vague, but we always express something through art.
This moment brings with it a series of complex circumstances and emotions. It’s precisely this complexity that art handles well. I encourage all of us to take what we’re experiencing, good or bad, and tell our communities about it. Make something; make anything.
Maybe your community is just your family, maybe it’s just your friends, or maybe it’s the entire world. Regardless of scope, we need each other. What’s more, we need to hear each other because it’s through communication that we create community.
We might think of art as something done by artists, those other people who know something we don’t. This is not the case. I’ll tell you a secret: everyone is an artist! Really, I promise. So write that poem, finish that song, paint your favorite person, dance by the water at midnight, and please, pretty please, have so much fun doing it.
When there are no rules, you can’t do something “right” or make something “good.” You’ll say something important whatever you do, and you and the people you share it with will be so much richer for it.
In time, this moment will pass. It may be haunting and difficult to think about even then. There are, of course, greater concerns than picking up a pen or paintbrush right now.
I’ve noticed, however, a renewed appreciation for the arts. Our lives are made fuller in this moment by our favorite books, movies, music and so on. I think we’d find participating in the arts equally rewarding, both now and in the future.
In closing, I’ll borrow the words of Robert Alexander, the founder of Living Stage Theatre Co. He says, “Every human being is an artist and in the moment of creation, we are at our most sane, most healthy, and most fulfilled.”
Mark Macey is working with Eastport Arts Center and Stage East, community theater groups aiming to increase work with new participants and audiences, especially youth. A graduate of the University of Utah with a B.A. in Theater Studies, he lived in Salt Lake City before moving to Maine.