Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Monday, November 12, 2012

Picnic -- A Play About Choices

We drove to Natchitoches yesterday to see Eric in Louisiana School for Math Science and the Arts’ Theatre production of Picnic, the 1953 Pulitzer Prize winning play by William Inge. The show program calls it “A Play About Choices,” and goes on to say . . .

1953 was a long time ago and the world has changed a lot since then. What makes this play relevant in today’s world? In the 1950s, the common image of the American family was that of perfect people living perfect lives surrounded by white picket fences and lush backyards. Playwright William Inge questioned that worldview. He wrote about genuine people who made choices with their lives, not necessarily good or bad choices, because sometimes that distinction does not exist. Just choices. Choices that people have to live with for the rest of their lives. However, sometimes the choices are made for us and one person’s happy ending is another person’s tragedy. And that is what makes this play relevant even today. Our choices still define us and the people around us. For better or worse, we must live with them.

And that got me thinking. About choices. In each and every day, there are numerous decisions to make, forks in the road that determine particular outcomes. Some choices might affect only the course of that one day and have no impact upon others. But some choices, like ripples from a pebble tossed into a still lake, truly do affect the course of our lives, and oft times the lives of those around us. Sometimes our choices impact total strangers, sometimes ordering the destinies of generations to come. It’s a bit overwhelming to think of it, really. If we over-dwelled on the magnitude of our decisions, we’d go crazy with doubt, fear, and worry. But the truth is, the simple act of living our lives entails enormous responsibility.

How do we arrive at decisions we make in life? What determines and influences the choices we make? It’s embarrassing for me to remember my own self as a young adult in my 20s. I prescribed to the self-indulgent notion that I am the most important person in the world to myself. Yes, I recall thinking and feeling that way. It seems incredibly selfish to me now, or at the very least, too simplistic. Maybe it was merely through the process of growing up, and especially I think becoming a parent, but I’ve come to learn that there are so many more factors than myself to consider when making choices. We want to consider the best interest of others. We don’t want to hurt people. And yet, we see it all the time, there are people who take this mindset to the opposite extreme. They become martyrs, sacrificing so much of themselves that they don’t live their own lives. How do we know where to draw the line between doing what is right for ourselves and still considering the best interests of others?

Anyway, Eric did a great job performing the role of Howard Bevans, a comical booze-swilling bachelor businessman with questionable morals. In the end, Howard, as do many of the characters in Picnic, must make a monumental life-changing decision. Like all of us in our day-to-day lives, they just hope it all works out.

The most poignant line of the show comes near the end, when Madge, on the brink of risking all to follow her heart, cries on her mama’s shoulder, “What can you do with the love you feel? Where is there you can take it?”

What indeed?

Here’s Eric and Andrew in the lobby after the show. They switched hats.

3 comments:

Common Household Mom said...

I read this when you first posted it, but didn't have time to comment then. Weighty stuff, thinking about our choices and how we make them.

You are right that over-dewlling on the choices would drive us nuts. Yet simply HAVING choices available to us (I'm thinking in terms of education and career choices) is a privilege that not too many people have.

How wonderful that Eric was in the play, and how wonderful that you got to see it!

Angie Kay Dilmore said...

Thanks, CHM. And yes, it is a privilege to have choices in life.

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