Compared with generations past, theatre artists today are more likely to commute to rehearsal with earphones on, listening to the soundtracks of our lives instead of the voices around us. We send quick, pithy texts instead of calling even our best friends. Many of us actors keep our cell phones in our dressing rooms and text throughout the play, unable to relinquish “connectedness” for a two-hour stretch even while we act – the one thing that purportedly makes us feel the most connected.
This isn’t to point a finger. Our generation is accustomed to communicating with multiple people simultaneously. We experience it as being hyperconnected to a world community, part of the buzz we get from being a Generation Without Borders. And it is wildly attractive. To be connected across state lines, time zones, and continents is an achievement we should make use of.
But there is a flip-side. As connected as we are globally, we are increasingly cut off from our own communities. Our iPod drowns out the person sitting next to us on our commute. We don’t know the name of our neighbor on the other side of the wall. We text with our friend across the country rather than notice the distinctive way the stranger in front of us holds his cane. While some borders have dissolved, new, perhaps subtler, borders have emerged all around us. My call to action for the artists of Generation Without Borders is to strengthen our communities.
To be present. To take the buds out of our ears and listen. To witness and relate to the plights of strangers we see in the street. To be moved by a play and share our thoughts with our fellow audience members before immediately posting a status update. To look out. To offer up. To volunteer in our communities and know who our neighbors are. Let’s embrace what’s best about our new connectedness and reject what threatens to make us self-absorbed, distracted and myopic.
— Amanda Quaid