Once upon a time, a young French friend, then much younger than I (and still is, I suspect) shook his head and said in response to my question regarding the Mistral winds and murder: You read too much, Karen.
What a thing to say! Is that even possible?
Well, now I’m reading about the 19th Century Jewish salons in Berlin and I want a salon of my own, except I want it now, in the 21st Century, and I want to set it up in Canada. I live in Minneapolis which, truth be told, might be the perfect spot except this city it too large and my heart hurts from Trump and Trudeau gives me comfort.
“But you don’t like people, even Canadians,” Miriam responded (too quickly and too brashly, I thought).
She’s right. But hold on a second. Somehow I think this might be the answer to many of my problems. (I have many, many problems.)
Still, listen. Here’s the plan:
I move to the town of my dreams. It’s small, artsy, liberal. I buy an old brick house with a full attic and basement and a fireplace on the main floor. The basement is for my husband who couldn’t keep a room neat for more than nine minutes. The attic will be my Black Box.
Within this space, above the tiny town, deep within the dreariest months of winter, I invite my neighbors from miles around, perhaps 20 at a time, to come watch a new play. Either with minimal staging or a directed reading. I give a playwright, a director, and actors a place in which to engage in their talents. And I give my neighbors a space in which to think and to play with their thinking.
Wow! I love it!
Afterward, we descend to the main floor where a fire burns on the hearth and there’s liquid to drink and bits to eat and a great amount of conversation. Thomas Jefferson invented the dumb waiter so that food could be delivered to the dining room without interrupting the flow of talk.
To Jefferson, discussion was life’s blood. And here, in this dark, dreary, cold and unfriendly time of year in a town far, far, far from Trump and his Cabinet of Horrors, in my salon, we wrestle with and thrill to the generous gift we were given just moments earlier.
We pay for it. In my imagination, I see a bowl at the door filled with cash. Off the top comes reimbursement for the snacks but everything else is divided evenly between the artists. And those in the audience give as generously as is possible, because they understand that free expression is in danger. Maybe not in Canada, but certainly here and beyond. (Alright! So maybe I consider starting my salon here in the Twin Cities. It’s not my dream but maybe it’s my duty.) The National Endowment for the Arts is under attack, as is everything else that does not serve those whose greed gluts their eyes, ears, and stomachs. Those of us who understand, who value, who hunger to know what the creative soul hungers to tell – we are all that stands between the Sun and the Dark Ages.
I have no patent on my dream, so should you want to invite a travelling troupe of players into your attic, should you want to host an intimate concert in your living room, should you want to hold a poetic picnic in the park come summer, do so! And tell the world!! Shout it!!!