I was at a Springsteen concert recently. One of his most famous songs — Hungry Heart — usually leads to him falling back onto the audience. He’s passed around from one group to the next miraculously ending up back on stage by the end of the song. The trust he puts on his audience is remarkable. In fact, several times during his concerts he engages his audience by breaking the “fourth wall” and snaking his way through the crowd. What’s less interesting is how many people feel compelled to pick up their iPhones to record the moment. For one example of this look at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLxPHtQs4mQ. It’s as if by not recording the moment it never happened. In fact, what is really happening is that the “fourth wall” Springsteen is so desperate to break is being erected again by the audience. They are putting an iPhone between Springsteen and themselves. This is so true of life in general. We are no longer living in the moment; instead, we are hoping to grab the moment to do…to do what with it?
More recently, I travelled to San Francisco and ended up in Dolores Park. I looked around at everyone around me and I did not see a single iPhone. No one was recording the moment. They were living the moment. The two events could not be more different. No selfies. No photographing. Just living. Neither of these moments will ever exist again. And I emphasize, the moments will never happen again; so which is the best way to have experienced them. The answer seems obvious to me.
The famous acting teacher Sanford Meisner often talked about living in the moment. One of his most famous exercises involves “repetition.” Two actors face one another and the first actor mentions one detail about the second. The second actor then repeats it only to have the first actor repeat it again. This goes on for a little while until the two actors are living in the moment. Nothing is getting in the way of them. The ultimate goal is to do away with any and all distractions and put the first actor’s focus on the second and vice versa. This creates a beautiful connection between two people and, in turn, they are able to affect one another.
Meisner was years ahead of his time. If he only knew how our attention span would shrink, how much technology would alienate us from one another, and how little of life would be lived in the moment, he’d be terribly discouraged.
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Rogelio is the winner of the first ever Mid-Career Fellowship at the Lark Theater Company. Ping Pong, his play about Nixon, Mao, and the hippie that brought the two together, is part of this season’s Public Studio series at The Public. His new play, Born in East Berlin, will be given a workshop at the Arden in April. Some of Rogelio’s plays include Wanamaker’s Pursuit (Arden Theater), When Tang Met Laika (Sloan Grant/ Denver Center/ Perry Mansfield), All Eyes and Ears (INTAR at Theater Row), Fizz (NEA/ TCG Grant/ Besch Solinger Productions at the Ohio Theatre, New Theater Miami), Learning Curve (Smith and Krauss New Playwrights: Best Plays of 2005/ Besch Solinger Productions at Theater Row), I Regret She’s Made of Sugar (winner of the 2001 Princess Grace Award), Arrivals and Departures (Summer Play Festival), Union City... (E.S.T, winner of the James Hammerstein Award), and Displaced (Marin Theater Co.) In addition, Rogelio’s work has been developed and presented at the Public Theater, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Mark Taper Forum, South Coast Repertory, the Magic Theater, and Ojai Theater Company among others. Rogelio is an alumnus of New Dramatists and his plays are published by Broadway Play Publishing. He has received commissions from the Mark Taper Forum, the Atlantic Theater Company, the Arden Theater Company, Denver Center Theater, and South Coast Repertory. In the past Rogelio has been profiled in a cover story in American Theater Magazine. In addition to writing, Rogelio teaches playwriting at Goddard College, Montclair University, and Primary Stages as well as private workshops. For several years Rogelio was a member of the Dorothy Strelsin New American Writer’s Group at Primary Stages. In television, Rogelio has written for Astroblast, a children’s television show. Rogelio was born in Cuba and arrived in this country in 1980 during the Mariel boatlift. He lives in New York with his family.