Last night, I saw Sunday in the Park with George at the theater where I work. While this is a requirement of my job, I was also really looking forward to it. I saw the most recent broadway production but, after last night, I know that it did not reach me in the way I now believe this play can, the way it did last night.
“There are only two worthwhile things to leave behind when you depart this world of ours: children and art.” In the second act, Marie, who believes herself to be the daughter of George Seurat, says this to her grandson, also George and also an artist. George is somewhat lost, making the same light pieces over and over, putting most if his creative efforts in to getting the next commission rather than his actual work. But, as the play points out, that is the state of the arts today.
Contrast that with George Seurat in the first act, who works so intensely on his painting that he pushes everyone away, including the woman he loves, and does little to promote his work. He dies penniless and alone. As it is, George of the second act may not be penniless but he is alone. It is not until he stands in the very park where Seurat set his A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte and finds a bit of his family history in an old grammar book that he begins to take his grandmother’s words seriously.
Watching this play stirred up a lot within me. I’m unsure of my path as an artist and have been ever since I finished grad school. I don’t even know if I have a path as an artist. I do not think of myself the way I think of the characters in this play or the actors who portray them or the writers who gave them the beautiful words and music. I think of myself as someone who went to school for theater and who now works at a theater, who supports artists and loves art, but who is not one of them.
I’m also unsure of my path as a parent. Recently, one of my doctors said, “So you and your husband probably aren’t having kids because of your condition right?” At that time, we were just married and had both said we would like kids “some day” but had made no decisions nor spent any real time talking about it. The question totally threw me off. I never considered that I would not have kids because my arthritis would prevent me from being able to get pregnant, carry a baby to term or care for a baby after he/she is born. It is true that if we had a child right now, I would not be able to care for him/her alone. And it is true that I would be very nervous about being pregnant in my current condition. But I have always assumed that there are other options–surrogacy, adoption, a nanny.
All of this has been floating around in my head for more than a few months and really came forward when I heard those words. “There are only two worthwhile things to leave behind when you depart this world of ours: children and art.” Now I don’t intend to gauge my entire self worth based on one night in the theater, but children and art have been two of the things I want out of life. And love.
The love I definitely have! The rest is up in the air but I love when art, especially theatre, makes me think in this way and allows me to see something I struggle with on stage.