Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Immediate Theater

Late afternoon, I sit at a patio table in my local café and sip my coffee. I’ve been dragging my feet to finish my current project of last 15 years. I’m getting slower, less focused, bored. I need a break. A book “The Empty Space” by Peter Brook also sits in front of me. I don’t know how many years I wanted to read this book, but a few months ago, I found it in the library. It was only $1.00. I open the book and begin reading the first chapter “The Deadly Theatre.” I sigh. I don’t need to know what deadly theatre is. I can tell without anyone telling me. I yawn and gaze out to the street.

I’m looking ahead for nothing. Over an empty parking lot, only cars go back and forth. What am I doing? I page through the book. The second chapter is “The Holy Theatre” and the third, “The Rough Theatre.” I respect Peter Brook, but I don’t feel like reading those chapters. I throw my glance at the empty parking lot again.

Across the street beyond the parking lot, a willow-like tree stands on the pavement. I like trees. It’s probably elm tree, or maybe a droopy kind of eucalyptus tree. Trees are nice. Trees are like people. Green trees always nurse us back to health. I drop my gaze under the tree branches and spot a man in sky-blue, short-sleeved shirt standing next to the tree trunk. He carries a lunch box. He must have been standing there all along, but I haven’t noticed him until this moment. There must be a lot I don’t notice in my life. It’s amazing how absent minded I am. It’s been a constant struggle for me to be aware of things inside and outside.

Over sudden, the man throws his lunch box high up in the air and start to circle his arm. I blink. His arm goes round and round. What is going on? He switches his hand for carrying the box and circles his other arm, up, up in the sky. A pause. The box dangles from his hand. He starts to circle the box in place clockwise, round and round in circle. He stops. Then, he circles in counter clockwise, round and round and round. Then, he switches his hand and does the same.

A commuter bus passes a block away. He probably came back by the previous bus and has been waiting for his family member to pick him up. He is exercising his shoulder and arms so that he won’t waste his time. He is probably thinking why his ride is late.

A large truck appears in the parking and park away but in front of me. The color of the truck is beautiful dark blue, but I can’t see the man anymore. Ordinary people probably stop gazing out the street by now. But I have already watched a half drama, so now I feel the need to see the ending. I can no longer see the man, but soon, a beige passenger car enters the parking lot behind him.

I stand up and lean rightward. A woman in a yellow t-shirt comes out of the car and goes around the trunk of the car. I don’t see what she does after that, but she returns to her driver seat. I think she has gone to check if his seatbelt is snugly fastened. The man probably has complained that she is late, and she probably has told him that she needed her laundry folded, otherwise they would get wrinkle. Why didn’t you finish the laundry in the morning? He might say. She would reply, I was too busy and forgot. She will probably drive straight down the street as she has come and make a turn at next stop in order to return home.

The car drives out of that parking lot and goes straight along the street a little bit, then makes a big U turn. Wow! She is daring. The car speeds away. I wonder if he will complain the way she drives or not. Men usually do. I go back reading the book.


The last chapter is “The Immediate Theatre.” This seems interesting. I hold my pen and start to read. In the first long paragraph, I underline a sentence and write, “disagree.” The sentence is, “It is always hard for anyone to have one single aim in life.” My mother had one aim only in her life. I’m sure of it. I’ve been writing about her on and off for last 15 years. Her aim was nothing other than practicing Ocha (tea ceremony.) I underline two more sentences in the next paragraph. “Furthermore, in society in general the role of art is nebulous. Most people could live perfectly well without any art at all.” Gee, Peter Brook is so wrong about that. Mother even practiced Ocha during WWII when they couldn’t get any sweets or tea. And that’s not only my mother. Many artists were the same. Without arts, artists could not survive the war, and most people are artists.

Come to think of it, the man in sky-blue shirt and the woman in yellow t-shirt have gone back in the direction of my house. I wonder if they are my neighbors whom I have not yet met. This morning, I said hello to the sunflowers peeking in to my backyard. I appreciate their company, and I hope the neighbor who owns it will not cut it.


Vincent said...

I enjoyed this post the best of all your posts that I have read. It was a gripping narrative: not just of what you saw but of you the observer as part of the whole scene.

I liked the way you argued with Peter Brook. I like to argue with books, too, or rather their authors. So let me try to argue with you. Brook says that it is always hard for anyone to have a single aim in life. Surely your mother must have found it hard too, to make the practice of ocha her single aim in life?

And Brook said that most people could live perfectly well without any art at all. Don't blame Brook. He knew very few Japanese people.

keiko amano said...


Thank you! This drama happened the day before yesterday, and that morning, I took those photos for future use. Nothing was happening in my head and had no energy to work on my memoir about my mother for last five days. Out of boredom, I started to write this post, but temporarily I forgot what I was reading at the café, so I open my backpack. Of course, it was Peter Brook’s most famous book. I think I put my hope up too long, and I wasn’t prepared for those simplistic statements. Besides, I just finished reading “The Universe in a Single Atom” by Dalai Lama. His writing on “empty” was very satisfying to read.

“It is always hard for anyone to have a single aim in life.”
I think nothing is easy, and to be accomplished in even one area of interest is definitely hard, but all those artists do it because of greater reward. Since I believe anyone’s life is hard according to each person’s measurement, I rather have one aim than no aim at all because I know I will suffer more searching for an aim.

“Most people could live perfectly well without any art at all.”
I hope Peter Brook and other people with similar opinion as above realize that so called others whom they think not having artists in them are judgmental. That’s my opinion.

ZACL said...

I like the way you are creating a real time story/drama around what you observe. Then you flash back to your book, nearer its end, (having discarded its earlier ambling) and find it is not an end in itself, it is a contradiction of ideas in your view, ideas you would challenge, and you do.

keiko amano said...


Don't you think dramas and contradictions are all around us if we decide to see them.
I'm glad you liked it.

Rebb said...

Keiko, How ironic that this came to you in a moment of boredom. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I've always thought you were a great story teller and this is one of your stellar examples!

Nice sunflower photos.

keiko amano said...


I'm glad you enjoyed it. For all ironies, we have a selection of interpretations.