Monday, March 5, 2012

Hearing Aids and Community

Rossini says that Moraga was “searching for her own people, for a group that shares both her political beliefs and cultural position, crucially recognizing that her people need a space in which to manifest themselves.” (177)  Isn’t this sort of true of most artists?  I guess this takes us back to community – that every artistic endeavor is looking for some way to communicate with like-minded people, or to convert non-like-minded people into like-minded people.  We want to work with people who understand us and we want to perform for people who can hear what we have to say.  I’ve spent the last eight years working with a company in South Carolina with similar passions and goals and politics and aesthetics, and it’s an extremely rewarding experience to have a community of artists who speak the same language.  Of course, this idea becomes more literal when we’re talking about Latina American theatre, where the intersection of language is so much a part of the aesthetic.  The ways in which Spanish and English intertwine throughout the book create a whole new language that communicates with different audiences in different ways.  I have to admit – the tangent I think I’m about to take is a little off the beaten track, but it’s sort of where I’m living right now, so I guess I’ll just have to deal with that.  On the language front – I spent the weekend in Brampton, ON – a suburb of Toronto.  I was visiting my grandparents in the hospital.  They’re both in there for different reasons, but they’ve managed to be put in the same room.  So they’re there in their hospital beds facing each other – and neither one is wearing his or her hearing aid.  So my aunt and I spent the weekend repeating ourselves loudly and slowly, watching them interpret us and each other, seeing the hilarious and frustrating and adorable patterns that are still so present after 64 years of marriage.  It struck me – the common history and vocabulary and knowledge that was shared by the people in that room.  My grandparents are from tiny towns on the east coast of Canada, my aunt in Canadian-American, my cousin is Lebanese-Canadian, her husband is Chinese-Canadian, I’m on my way to American-Canadian status… we live all over the world, but this common communal thread of family gave us the ability to understand each other and share the experience in a way that would have been so different with an outsider in the room.  The nurses commented on the dynamic – it’s a tangible thing to be among a group of people who understand each other in such a fundamental way – even when we’re not as able to communicate.  I sat in the surprisingly comfortable visitor’s chair reading Rossini’s book and thinking about the ways in which people perform with and for their respective communities.  We assume or are assigned roles that will hopefully serve the entire community in some meaningful way.  And we do what we have to to be understood.  And we accept that sometimes we won’t be understood or we won’t understand, but lack of understanding doesn’t preclude participation – especially in the theatre we read about this week.  Sometimes the source of confusion becomes a source of inquiry: an invitation to take a different point of view or to ask new questions or to phrase things differently.  Certainly the implications of Moraga’s theatre – and the work of all the artists mentioned in the book – are far greater than the implications of my grandfather yelling into the phone to his deaf sister in Halifax or my grandmother believing my cousin’s husband had called her “Phoenician” instead of “a comedian,” but at the heart of all of this is a common experience fueling a common language and a common sensibility with some hope of connecting with our little concentric circles of community.

No comments:

Post a Comment