It seems these days; much of my life is dominated by fears (the real kind, not this lovely play). Like a baby learning to walk, each step, each day, throws me into a new frenzy, sends my bones and organs scrambling, and kicks my brain in the ass—balance, damn it! Balance! To avoid falling on my face? Keep barreling forward or find little somethings to cling to, brief respite. Others, those better beings that have already mastered locomotion, smile and cheer me on. Their outstretched hands and beckoning voices are a thousand miles away, a billboard promise that I will one day get there too.
Jorja feels very familiar to me. Right now, at the end of a long academic career full of backbreaking work paid for in promises of a bright future, a happy life, and one big assurance: Yes. If you do what we say, if you cultivate that very special youness of you, you will one day not only walk, but fly—I find myself off balance and fearful. I imagine (and know) many of my peers feel the same way. That hope that was once buoyed by a vision of the slowly approaching, vast and glimmering future is replaced by fear as that vastness slams to a stop an inch from my nose, looking as immense as always.
I had expected, as I grew in size and intellect, that I would one day stroll up to that vast and distant future and find it laughably small.
I would pocket it along with all the answers I already knew and saunter off into The Rest of My Life.
I think all of the characters are grappling with similar voids made by old hopes, structures, and expectations slipping away. Jorja aggressively, compulsively seeks out others’ companionship, tearing into them as if she could burrow inside to find a way into being someone new, and hitch a ride to happiness. She is destructive and manipulative, wringing at the fabric of other lives to squeeze out the love she needs and the answers she wants. I could look at her behavior, or at Kenrick’s, or Carter’s, or Belinda’s and say, “that’s not right, that’s certainly not how you should have handled that.” But I can’t fault any of them, because I see in the ways they treat each other logic born of fear, of restlessness, of desperation. I see the same things in myself and in others around me. I have a feeling all this fear and anxiety is characteristic of being on the verge of leaving nest-dom, but I also think there’s something unique to this generation of fledglings. Maybe it’s just that the world’s only gotten bigger as our connection to it has gotten weaker. Maybe it’s that 21st century laziness and ingratitude that was pinned on us revealing itself as truth. Maybe it’s hubris, misguidance, or plain idiocy, but I never expected it would be so daunting a task to do something good and significant, to find happiness, to face the future.
As wave after wave of Millennials come of age, this country is about to behold an army of super-smart, sleekly cultured, starry-eyed toddlers stumbling over their toes—heads spinning, hands grasping for their share of the Dream, whatever that is now. Diving into this play and this process with my fellow ensemble members makes me think that our best bet is this: Find your fellow toddlers and lock arms. Keep staggering forward together. Transitions are all driven by fear, and we’re in it now. It might not look like anything we assumed, but I sincerely hope (and dare I say believe) we can still make it look like everything we dreamed.