For years, friends have heard me say that art can do one of two things: make you forget, or compel you to remember. It’s an oversimplification, as great art will often do both, but it’s a nice way to broadly frame and process performances. Art that makes you forget momentarily distracts you from whatever slings and arrows you are facing and gives you a respite from the daily grind. Stand-up comics and Marvel movies are two of my favorites that easily fit into this category, but there are countless others: dance bands, improv and sketch, romantic comedies, funny podcasts, etc.
On the other side of the spectrum lives art that compels you to remember. What I mean by this is art that causes the viewer to reflect upon their own experiences or ask larger questions about the human experience. This kind of art holds up a mirror then demands that we look into it and assess what we see. In the coming weeks, the valley has two opportunities to experience art that makes us remember. These performances will investigate the state of our world and ask if we are doing our part to make it a better place.
On Feb. 18, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival brings its production of “Macbeth” to the Temporary. This performance is part of CSF’s Violence Prevention program, which uses live performance to teach students and their families how to avoid violence and mitigate it when they see it.
This same program came to the Temporary last year and performed “Julius Caesar” 10 days after the Parkland School shooting. It was a raw and powerful night at which the power of art to make us remember was on full display. I expect this production to be equally moving. The script has been condensed into a 45-minute production that is followed by a talkback. The actors have been trained by CU-Boulder academics to help the audience connect the events in the play to situations in their lives and give them tools to take action. While we seem incapable of ending the endless tragedy of school shootings, for one night, we can use the Bard to move the needle in some small way. Bring a young person in your life to this show and start a conversation.
On Feb. 21, Thunder River Theatre Company (TRTC) opens “Of Mice and Men,” by John Steinbeck. TRTC consistently produces thought-provoking and engaging shows, and I know that this show will not disappoint.
I spoke with Lon Winston, founder of the company and director of the show, about why this text matters so much at this moment in time. He shared, “Steinbeck is an amazing writer. His ‘Of Mice and Men’ is a simple story that has been turned into a Greek tragedy. Some of the themes in the play — friendship, alienation, loneliness, meanness — all resonate on contemporary terms. For our production, I am focusing on caretaking and end-of-life decisions in a world that feels more lonely and alienating than just a couple of years ago.”
Bring a parent or loved one to this show and start a conversation.
We are lucky to live in a place where performances that challenge us to be our best selves are readily available. I urge all of you to see these shows with a willingness to learn, grow and be inspired to action. These are productions that are certain to compel us to remember.
Ryan Honey is the executive director of the Arts Campus at Willits (TACAW), the nonprofit that operates The Temporary in Basalt. Ryan spent nearly 20 years working as an actor, producer and arts administrator in Los Angeles before moving his family to Basalt. You can catch him performing with TRTC’s Consensual Improv up and down the valley.