Online Hubbub: Let Me Down Easy, Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Which character was your favorite and why?

“I didn’t see them as ‘characters’ at all – they were impressions or recountings of the expressions of real people, and weren’t part of a fictional context as are characters in a play. Calling them ‘characters’ is incorrect, and offensive, in so far as it denies the reality of her interviewees’ experiences.”—KP

“Rev Gomes, pretty true to real life!”—MBB

“Peter Gomes (of course unfairly since I work at HDS… : )”—D.Marie

“Jessye Norman–because of her dignity, intelligence and erudite vocabulary.”—Judy N.

“The Director of the orphanage was my favorite character; at least she is the one who moved me the most – she is the one whose heart I share.  As someone who has cared for and lost children who were not mine, I know that pain as my own.  Anna reached in to this woman’s heart and mind and pulled out enormous moments of Grace – and shared them generously with us.”—Marcia C.

“I liked the reverend Peter Gomes and wondered how he felt about the portrayal. I also liked the Buddhist monk for the irony and humor and also Elaine Scarry. In fact, her character was superb!”—Carol S.

“Not any one, some of my favorites were Gov. Richards because of her humor and Trudy Howell because of her compassion.”—Diane L.

“The one I had the emotional reaction to was the woman who told of the slaying of her family.”—Nell M

“The characters from Rwanda were incredible–so moving, so powerful, so touching.  I also liked Ann Richards, and the Rabbi from LA.”—Liz A

“I appreciated all of them. Peter Gomes was my advisor at Harvard Divinity School so I got a particular kick out of ADS’s spot-on embodiment.”—Leaf

“Elaine Scarry and Dr Pizzo; Scarry because I am a gardner and Dr Pizzo because I thought what he said was so right.”—Peggy L.

“Dean of the Stanford Medical School.  Having had two cancer surgeries three months apart at the Stanford Medical Center in 2006, I have a special place in my heart for the people there.  The medical staff there tries hard to make a “graceful” connection to its patients. And everything he said was so right about what is wrong with our medical system. I hope Obama taps people like him to help solve the crisis.”—Lisakat

Who else would you suggest that Anna interview in her ongoing exploration of grace?

“A foster child who has been through the system, experienced the good and the bad.  And the foster mom who loves and loses time and again.  The biological mom who loves enough to let go.  I would love Anna to explore the Child Welfare Program in this country.”—Marcia C.

“Desmond Tutu.”—MBB

“Children.”—D. Marie

“Pete Seeger.”—Judy N.

“Freud, Einstein, Maya Angelou, Louise Bourgeoise.”—Carol S.

“Paraplegics who have, nonetheless, been productive and still love life.”—Nell M

“Mothers.”—Liz A

“One or more of the exonerate people who served time on death row. How some of those folks served years in prison unjustly and have managed to return to life on outside with grace and not rage would be instructive to hear about. Also, my friend Kathleen DeSilva, in Houston, Texas who has lived with C-1/2 spinal cord injury longer than anyone else, who is the most gracious and grace-filled person I know. She broke her neck at 16 (gymnastics), managed to graduate with her high school class, graduate law school and serve as counsel for many years at the Texas Institute for Rehabilitation. Paralyzed from the neck down, Kathleen manages to be a light-filled being and I suspect she would consent to an interview.”—Leaf

“Local farmers around the world producing sustainable safe food despite all the odds against them.”—Lisakat

Have you experienced grace in your life?  How?

“When you flight from another country just to see a play and a great artist, you breathe grace. You inhale and exhale grace. Even if your seating tickets have been changed, you still find grace in the effect of how things happened. Whether you try to talk to the artist in the streets and you are rejected by her excuses, you still feel grace for the respect and the accomplishment of at least seeing her and crossing “one” word with her. Then, you also can see that POWER reveals itself somehow no matter the circumstances.  When you hear through the play -a great communication media and by a great communicator- that everywhere everyone is going through the same problems and conditions, all of the sudden you understand grace is everywhere all the time. What I still don’t understand is the exclusivity and the repetition of mistreatment. For some of us that have no family, for whatever the reasons, making a decision to whether feel pain or not, it is learned. There is so much knowledge spread around about why we suffer. Where is the knowledge and results about how bringing down that insecurity-power (wall of fear) behavior benefits all of us? We can see some of that in the play too, between the lines. Thanks to the artist for giving us her time and efforts, to reach us even though we are not in the United States and, to open our eyes to better alternatives no matter the culture, race, and hopefully age. Maybe someday someone will start caring again for those older than 50 years old. As things are promoted now, everything is for the youngest. That power and exclusivity affects many many environments. Something people forgot was that it was not until early 90’s that handicap ramps were integrated in the sidewalks. We have to keep the elderly active and creatively working.”—Margie M.

“Whenever I am with my 7 year old autistic grandson, who is filled with joy!  Though he cannot speak, I feel his communications with me are fueled by grace.”—MBB

“Yes.  Often without understanding it until I grew into my life’s experiences.  Reflection is a good thing.”—D. Marie

“Too many times to count, but the most moving was being with both my father (in 1986) and my mother (in 2006) at the moments when they died, at peace with themselves and their life’s ending.”—Judy N.

“Every time I step out of my familiar well worn shoes, and make myself open and vulnerable to those who are different from me, I allow the possibility of Grace to come in.”—Marcia C.

“I experience grace every time I am able to stop myself from going on automatic and be present to what is in the moment. That is a time of grace!”—Carol S.

“I find grace nearly every day that I’m truly paying attention from the little moments when someone holds open the door at a store to reading a sentence in a book that is so beautiful I have to stop and read it again and again. But I am lucky to have these moments because I have a home and a job, a wonderful partner, an engaging son, three cats and a dog. And they all bestow a kind of grace in my life everyday.”—Diane L.

“So many ways…most recently, I was contacted out of the blue by someone who made it possible for an old recording of mine with nine songs I wrote in the fifties to be produced, something I never thought would happen.”—Nell M

“I keep thinking of the expression ‘grace under fire’ or ‘grace under pressure’.  I think that by maintaining one’s humanity and positive outlook in the face of extraordinary circumstances can be considered grace.  I think that my experience of separating from my abusive husband and eventually getting a divorce while I had a very small child, and raising that child, and getting through that period a whole person while my child was relatively unscathed can be considered grace.”—Liz A

“Many times, mostly in the form of a second chance. Perhaps one of the most important forms of grace in addition to second or third chances, has been (remains) the understanding lessons come in all guises, often loss, and the teachers can be the most unlikely beings (not necessarily human).”—Leaf

“Through my patient care, there are moments when I feel that I am being my best self and I am able to BE there for the patient in the right way for them.  I also feel grace when I am in “nature”…. bird watching or hiking or just seeing the starry sky. I feel blessed then.”—Peggy L.

“Many times…throughout the time of my surgeries and my recovery.  Unexpected kindnesses from people that most assuredly helped in my healing. My life is changed as a result and it sounds crazy, but I am blessed that I went through this.”—Lisakat

Other comments?

“Despite Ms. Smith’s talent as a performer, I didn’t take very much from the show. What is the actual, emotional, experiential purpose of simply recounting the real stories of real people? There was no interpretation on Ms. Smith’s part, no artistic processing, if you will, save the order in which the interview segments were presented. Ultimately, the emotions, the stories were just copies of the real thing, and that created a palpable distance from their true source. Though, yes, it is nice to have access to the stories, I would have better felt and understood their intensity, I think, if I had seen the interviewees deliver those thoughts and experiences from their own heart, in a documentary or a lecture, or if Ms. Smith had injected into the play more of her own unique perceptive and creative energy, transforming the interviewees’ experiences into something new entirely.”—KP

“ADS is amazing!”—MBB

“It was a brilliant performance.”—D. Marie

“This play and so much of Anna’s work is chock full of Grace.  She is a teacher of Peace, allowing us to bear witness to moments and ideas we may never have been exposed to – allowing us to rub elbows with like and unlike beings, helping us to find our common humanity and better natures.  I know of no other person who can do what she does.  This is by far the best play I have ever seen.  Clearly God is working through Anna.”—Marcia C.

“Taking on all of those characters was a tour de force and Anna Deavere Smith chose well the phenomenal circumstances surrounding them. However, I did feel that the two parts held separate content, grace fitting the first half and not always the second.”—Carol S.

“This was an amazing show, truly amazing, one that continues to haunt.   I want to thank ART and Ms. Smith for brining this on.”—Diane L.

“The material was riveting but, even though I was fascinated by much of it, I was not emotionally engaged except in just a few places.  I also thought ADS could have used her hair more creatively and worn shoes for characters who would not have been barefoot in reality.”—Nell M

“I think that defining the word grace is a fascinating and thought-provoking exercise.”—Liz A

“Experiencing Anna Deavere Smith’s embodiment of grace (and disgrace) is an extended moment of grace. Applauding felt trivial. I did not experience “Let Me Down Easy” as performance, but worship.”—Leaf

“An astonishing, moving, and unforgettable performance.  Anna is a force of nature and a unique artist.  Bravo!”—David C.

“I felt myself truly weighted down by the experiences of the characters. Though many of them had experienced grace, the circumstances permitting them to do so were sooooo difficult, it was the pain of those circumstances and the evil or simple bad fortune behind the circumstances that seemed to stay with me.”—Diane E.

“I think Anna D Smith is brilliant and I am so grateful for her Buddha soul.  I am grateful to have been able to see her again and that I am alive in her lifetime.”—Peggy L.

“Tremendous show.  I went twice.  Where does she go next with this?  My friends in NYC want to see it.”—Andy

“I thought the connection between violence and grace was thin; it gave Anna a chance to make a   play out of violence.  I didn’t like it at all–I stayed until intermission so as not to be rude by leaving half way through the first act.”—Steve

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