The Art of Forgetting

The Art of Forgetting : Gloss

I

The lights rise on a perfect replica of your childhood.
It’s all overexposed and slanting askance.
So that the grass is too green, and your parents are
So young the scene shivers.

Everyone is there:

Friends and neighbors, piano lessons, the boy who moved away, the barn still standing, the man looming too tall behind the counter, photographer that never got developed, her promised and baby teeth in small Ziploc bags, and whole states of Oklahoma with graveyards of neon light, and trees at every window, that morning and that door left ajar, that game of hide and seek you kept playing long after everyone else went home.

Hold. (The director looks around.)
Ah, nostalgia. (A faint smile.)
And yet, something is still missing.
Let’s try this again tomorrow.

II

In the years since the artistic director first proposed the idea, the company has settled into a perfect schedule for the repertoire: a production may only be played once every six months,; brush-up rehearsals are strictly forbidden. When a new actor is invited in to take over a part, they must fully learn the role, but then are given an appropriate span of time to forget it sufficiently.

At first the reception was cold; the critics panned the work as amateurish. And for a time hecklers composed a sizable portion of the audience, but soon they too watched with bated breath as the actors stumbled over lines and entrances, or alighted on a sudden inspired recollection. The beauty in such moments transfigured all. It was on the best of these nights that the audience would spontaneously run to the stage to hug the actors, or scream in horror at the tragedy before them, or sit long in silence forgetting what they were meant to do, how to clap or even how to move – all habits broken – but alive, so alive.


About the Author

Daniel Sack is Associate Professor in the Department of English and the Commonwealth Honors College at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is the author of After Live: Possibility, Potentiality, and the Future of Performance (Michigan, 2015) and Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape (Routledge, 2016). He is the editor of Imagined Theatres: Writing for a Theoretical Stage (Routledge, 2017) and imaginedtheatres.com.