“Theater showcases the recalibration of identity as indifference”Madhavi Menon, Indifference to Difference
Menon writes about the queerness of theatre and how it acts as a site of necessary plurality. I don’t want to get too heady and overly complicated, but I do think this image of the theatre is remarkable. We know that our identities are fluid, and theatre demonstrates that fluidity. When discussing “indifference”, Menon is talking about the decision to not let ourselves get pinned down in identitarian structures. “You’re straight,” “you’re gay,” blah blah blah. There are moments in our lives when labels work for us, yes. But there are many times when our identities, be it sexual or otherwise, stretch beyond what has been prescribed. We are all different from each other just as much as we can be different from ourselves. When we’re “indifferent” to this difference, we accept that innate fluidity and understand that things are always changing.
Theatre allows us to practice that indifference. Our empathy moves from character to character. Our eyes wander and our focus shifts. We are experiencing a new world, often one reflective of our own, and can gauge from a distance just how simple it is to break barriers of identity. “Oh, I can see where they’re coming from.” “I’ve been there before, but I’ve changed.” Theatre presents a safe space to roam.
I’m noticing this in online play readings too. Each actor’s different interpretation takes my mind into new places. Words said differently from how I read them shift my perspective. Aaaah, the theatre.