Interdependent Communion

British director Peter Brook (1925-2022) wrote and lectured extensively on the theatrical experience. One of the fundamental ideas he discussed was what he called “The Empty Space.” A bare stage, an actor on it and a viewer observing it are the indivisible reductions of theater. I understood this to mean that theater is essentially the communion of actors and audience. It requires both but little else. As an aggressively independent young man in college, Peter Brook (and others in an introductory theater class) opened my eyes to theater and art in general as more than passive entertainment and spectacle. At the core, theater is a communal experience. I think life is, as well.

Embracing my interdependence makes my life more whole. Much like the actor on the empty stage, I can and do act in solitude. Solitude can be meditative and restorative. In the extreme, however, solitude becomes isolation. The effects of isolation have been felt by most of us in the post-pandemic world. It might be surprising to learn that isolation and loneliness have a profound effect on our well-being beyond feeling down or sad. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says, “Each of us can start now, in our own lives, by strengthening our connections and relationships. Our individual relationships are an untapped resource—a source of healing hiding in plain sight. They can help us live healthier, more productive, and more fulfilled lives. Answer that phone call from a friend. Make time to share a meal. Listen without the distraction of your phone. Perform an act of service. Express yourself authentically. The keys to human connection are simple, but extraordinarily powerful.” 

Together, we can make something beautiful. 

~Ian Van Sice

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1 Response to Interdependent Communion

  1. Rev. Nancy Palmer Jones says:

    Oh, these words shine a light on strands of the web in my own life–past to present! I got to edit a book by Peter Brook, back in the day, and share a tiny bit of correspondence with him. What a revolutionary vision he brought to work that emerged (that great adrienne maree brown perspective!) from his and his company of actors’ interchanges with folx around the world.

    I’m grateful too for your articulating the cost of isolation, Ian! How many ways can we find to express this interdependent communion now in this changed world? So glad to be on the journey with you all!

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