I’ve had the chance to see a few of the Acts of Faith productions and I think it’s curious how many of the shows are about bravery. In our last podcast, I spoke to Brandon Carter from THE CHRISTIANS, a show about a preacher who takes a brave stand in expressing his true beliefs. Margarette Joyner was also a guest and in FREE MAN OF COLOR, a university president encourages a black man to enroll at Ohio University, a courageous action at the time. And in CORPUS CHRISTI both Judas (played by guest Chandler Hubbard) and Joshua have to find the courage to carry out their respective destinies.
Of course, in our production of WINGS, former wing-walker Emily Stilson has to bravely face a
debilitating health crisis.
Or does she?
Several years ago, a couple of friends of mine were diagnosed with cancer within a few months of each other. I did a lot of reading then about being courageous in the face of such a grave health scare. What I found was a lot of people reacting to the bravery sentiment. As one author put it, “Bravery comes in many forms, not all of them gallant or daunting tasks.”
As someone wrote recently after John McCain was diagnosed with brain cancer, “The person who “beat” cancer is no more “courageous” than the person killed by cancer. The person who lives to experience years of remission didn’t “fight” harder and longer and more effectively than those who never reach that stage.”
A health crisis is a harrowing and confusing event. The aftermath can be complicated, volatile and draining. One of the powerful aspects of WINGS, I believe, is that is gives at least a glimpse of how messy and variable the post-trauma experience can be. Sometimes bravery is an aspect of coping and overcoming. It seems to me that oftentimes simply trudging forward resolutely is key. Persistence is a lot less glamorous but it may trump bravery in many cases.
And being brave may involve making choices that are not necessarily considered brave on their face.
Deciding *not* to pursue certain medical strategies can involve more courage -- and perhaps more faith -- than braving the more commonly prescribed options. People may argue about a choice made at the end of WINGS and whether it is brave or not.
Sometimes it is the people around the person having the health crisis who need to be the bravest. I watched my mom care for her father in the last stages of his life and she would never know if he was going to be angry or sad, resting sedately or lashing out at everyone around him. Simply walking into his room everyday and dealing with that uncertainty seemed like the bravest thing in the world to me.
Finally, I saw Quill’s BRAVE NEW WORLD on Friday. I had the opportunity to speak to members of the show’s cast on Episode 2 and again on Episode 5 of the Firehouse Forum podcast. It’s ironic to me that the show with “brave” in the title has perhaps the least to do with bravery in the traditional sense. John, the “savage” in the play (convincingly played by Caleb Wade), makes a bold choice at the end and, in the world as he sees it, maybe his only choice. But is it a brave one? Hm.