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Recalibration

Stages of Resistance
Brian James Polak stares directing into the camera, which shoots him from an angle above him. Behind Brian is a room wallpapered floor to ceiling with letters of the alphabet.

This piece is part of a new Lark blog salon, curated by Caridad Svich, called 
"Stages of Resistance." This salon welcomes reflections and articles on issues and themes related to making work for live performance in political and 
aesthetic resistance to forms and systems that oppress human rights and censor and/or severely limit freedom of expression. We are in increasingly hostile, volatile times around the world, and this blog series hopes to serve as a space for considered, thoughtful, polemical articulations of practice and theory on the subject of resistance, the multiple meanings of political art, and the ways in which progressive, wholistic cultural change may be instigated through artworks. Stay tuned for more articles and reflections in this series throughout March and early April 2017.


I know I am not alone.

I feel lost.

I feel powerless.

I hear the chants… resist, persist… and I chant along.

There are protests to join and phone calls to make, but…. I am a writer and I need to write… something.

My problem is everything I write feels frivolous.

My plays of personal introspection, of only moderate interest to the world to begin with, now seem beyond cute. They’re revoltingly unimportant. Who cares about my unreconciled feelings about my father when there are people dying in Aleppo and basic human rights are being threatened here at home? EVERYTHING ELSE IN THE WORLD has become important… seemingly all at the same time.

There are so many things that matter so much and all at once it is almost as if no one thing can matter for more than a minute because LOOK OUT A NEW THING JUST HAPPENED AND WE HAVE TO PROTEST IN THE STREETS.

It’s like a choking London fog.

I can’t breath so I hold my breath.

But I can only hold my breath for so long.

When will this end and when can I have a second to think because I need to think to write and I need to write to think.

My brain is broken from all the pfffzzzztttt.

I’m searching for real practical ideas to cope. There are only so many animal videos I can watch to escape and escaping seems as unhealthy as holding my breath.

So… what I have to do is apply a new standard to my work, perhaps a standard I should have applied all along:

  • I must write what’s necessary.
  • I must write meaningful work.
  • I must write for more than my own precious broken soul.


The old way was to spend months writing the next great play to submit for all the opportunities around the country. I can’t exclusively do that any longer. Some writers are already deeply committed to writing work with a higher purpose, and I’m going to follow their path. I need to put Aleppo on stage. I need to give voice to refugees. I need to bring context to Executive Orders. I need to start creating work that might, even in the slightest way, impact change. Perhaps that change will be infinitesimal. Perhaps I only impact one person. That is a high enough bar for me to get started. Any change is progress. And progress means moving forward out of the choking fog.

Maybe if I do this enough, move forward enough, breathing will be easier, over time the protests will diminish, the chants will grow quieter, the world will become safer and more empathetic, and perhaps I won’t feel lost anymore.

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