While tackling domestic responsibilities, I multi-task, listening on the radio to music, news, game shows, and the wonderful tales presented on programs like This American Life. A few weeks ago, while paying bills, I heard a story about how much our culture enjoys making lists. The researcher described that even when something has accomplished, list-makers like myself will write down the task—optometry appointment, gas for the car, renew membership to Dancers’ Group—just so we can cross off the task on a list. It’s so completely satisfying. Ever since the story ran, I’ve been observing how I concoct lists—and how others’ list-making skills make me envious—and the question arose: where did writing down things to do, to chronicle, to dream about, originate?
In my research I found an intriguing piece by the novelist Umberto Eco about the making of lists in which he stated, “The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order — not always, but often.” The quote comes from Eco’s The Infinity of Lists: An Illustrated Essay, now on my list to read.
Making lists has such a yin and yang appeal to me: they can be practical, such as a shopping list, or fantastical, like dancing on the Paris Opera House stage, or being featured on page one of the NY Times. Then there are the private lists, like accounting for sexual partners, and I cannot reveal the length of mine. To make a list is to categorize the times of our lives, a simple way to acknowledge them, and create order.
By way of introduction to the engaging articles featured this month, I’ve made a list of quotes from contributors, hoping to intrigue you into making your own list, or to copy mine. It represents works that range in theme from fantasy, to connection and sharing, to the stories of homeless older women, to gentrification, to police brutality.
It’s a partial list; see the calendar for additional performances to add to yours.
“Their creative process is careful to not knife along the same wounds the young artists experience on the streets of San Diego, Mexico and East Oakland.” —Marvin K. White
“Will it scare, delight, or intrigue? Will it expand them [the audience] or make them feel limited? —Jo Kreiter
“How can one integrate his or her life and everyday experiences into the world of performance?” —Lenora Lee
“Performance for me is all about a sense of community.” —Charles Moulton
“It is an occasion to increase your knowledge base—building time in the theater, building knowledge about how each system works, and most important, building relationships.” —Mary Armentrout
“Collaborations enable me to challenge my own, and ultimately the audience’s, pre-conceived notions of these traditions [Kathak and Flamenco].” —Pandit Chitresh Das
Eco also has an existential thought, “We like lists because we don’t want to die.”
I concur! The creative impulse reflects our strong will to give back, to survive, to create a connection to our past, present and future; so please, keep making work and, lists.