Of course for many, it isn't about the RESULT but the process. For those creating art, the motives are as varied as the paint colors or costumes or lyrics that are used by the artist. But for those who RECEIVE the art...well...it can be transforming. And because art is so subjective, much of it can be transformative to one and bland to another. And that is what makes it so miraculous. But there are times, and I hope not as rare as they sometimes seem to me, when art is so powerful that a majority of those experiencing it are all in the same place together.
And so it was with the performance I just saw of WAR HORSE at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles.
From the first moments of the piece with no dialogue; no spoken word; the visual imagery and the subtle musical tones lifted me to a place where I began to cry. Certainly some of this comes from the fact that I LOVE the theatre. I was born on a stage (or so it feels) and so each time I am in an audience I am always transported even before the lights dim because I love it so much and my anticipation is always heightened. But sometimes, I am disappointed, or don't "get it" or don't find myself as moved as I would like to be. But with WAR HORSE, all the elements of good theatre were present: great acting, beautiful concept and movement with these amazing puppets, wonderful effects of sound and music and of course a wonderful story. But what makes the piece GREAT for me is the fact that the piece is more than those elements. It is a history lesson and so therefore it is educational. It is a moving love story and therefore it is emotional and universal. It is transformative because it makes those of us watching it think about a variety of things in our lives - family, competition, war, loss, love, hope, camaraderie...the list goes on and on with this piece.
Two of the most poignant moments in the play for me took place on or near the "battlefield." The one is when a Corporal becomes enraged at another officer who is clearly trying to abandon the war and protect two horses in the process. The Corporal says something like..."Why do you care more about these beasts...these animals...than you do some of your comrades dying in the field?" The blunt irony was not wasted on me in the moment and I actually verbalized a quiet "huh" in the theatre. I wanted to yell out "YOU are the beast! YOU are the animal! If you are speaking of "humanity" in some grand form then these horses are MUCH more human than you are!" And the second moment was when a German soldier and an Irish soldier were both sent by their opposing camps to untangle a horse in barbed wire. Neither could understand the other and yet when their goal was a common one, their differences vanished and only the common cause seemed to matter.
I could go on and on but I will simply leave you with how I began this piece...art can do so much. And at its best, it can do A LOT!
A special mention to the entire cast...their work in this piece is a true definition of ensemble. Would that we all worked together so well in all of our endeavors.
I fly the flag of art in all its forms...long may she wave!