It’s just room really, where the walls are painted black and a grid of metal pipes run across the ceiling. There is one door for the public to enter and two for the people who lived there. If you were led in blindfolded and then the cloth was quickly snatched away you’d think so what? You’d wonder what was the big deal about a black room in the middle of a shopping mall. But such wonder was made in that room and that’s what i want to help you understand.
In many ways I feel as if I am eulogizing a close friend,which is strange as it’s just a room with black walls. But there are memories in that room. Memories of such depth and scope, memories of such hope and joy, memories of such pain and loss, memories of doing things that most would never have the courage to try, that it no longer becomes just a room with black walls but a room filled with dreams.A room where we created, for just a brief span of time, something greater than ourselves, where we threw our bodies with abandon, where we lifted our voices together in song, and where we held a mirror up to ourselves and our world and created things that words fail to grasp. A room where we changed the world.
Every year 40 or so young and eager human beings would troupe through the door in the mad desire to learn about themselves and about the craft of acting. My own memories are of heroic failures and fantastic sparking successes made manifest in a two-year conversation about theatre and their place in it. We would play the music way too loud and dance together, overcoming our self-imposed limitations and hurl around that room.. We would sing songs, at first in halting timid voices, that would soon grow into full-throated harmonies that still echo there today. They would try to be honest in a dishonest world for just a moment, and I watched these young heroes examine themselves and each other in a quest for that sublime moment of transcendence that happens when you drop into a moment and speak with a voice that is undeniable in its authenticity.
I remember the warms ups, the stretches, the running, the zone of silence, vocal masques, Shakespeare, scene work, and most importantly watching a young actor struggle and then triumph in making real text written by someone in a room far away and years in the past. These moments would come to life in front of us and we’d gasp in reverence at privilege it was to see what just happened. It was an epic undertaking in that room with the black walls. It was a journey, not of miles and feet, but of hearts and belief. Belief that art still meant something in a world focused on dollars and cents. Belief that the act of play was worthwhile in and of itself. Belief that you could choose to be brilliant. Belief that you could change the room with a thought, Belief that for these two years anything was possible if we chose to do it. And finally belief in each other and the potential we each held.
What an honour it was to walk through that door, into that room, and to share my thoughts with people who wanted to do something most would say was not worth the effort. What a privilege it was to watch these young artists persevere through their own struggles and worries in the belief that acting was a noble cause worth giving their time, energy, and the gift of their talent too. With reverence I hold the memories of the heroism of those people, with me, for that small amount of time, close to my heart. Their gift of time and commitment to their craft sustains me today and continues to be an inspiration when things are hard. Now there will be a new room but this rooms remains in our hearts.
So you see friends this room with black walls in not just a room with black walls but it is a place where we came together to test our dreams against the reality outside that room. And so this room, this black box, is a monument to the dreams of these artists and will always hold a special place in my heart for the rest of my life.