Last evening, I entered the oldest theater in America wrapped in expectancy, and waited to be seated for a world premiere of Unholy Wars. After two covid years without the always eye-opening, sometimes breath-taking performances of the celebrated Spoleto Festival, I am buoyant just to be here.
I had come home from work exhausted and chose from my closet a particular dress to refresh my spirits and make ready for the evening. Now, as I stand at the rear of the theater, my eyes sweep over the audience and find a sea of what I call lazy dress—meaning whatever one might have pulled on that morning to dash to the grocery store. There’s a dull wash over the seats, an utter lack of excitement.
What happened, I wonder, to a sense of occasion? We’re gathered to witness the work of artists who have persisted for years to bring forth their genius. In the past few days, I’ve witnessed the premiere of Omar, an opera born of the chronicles of a muslim West African slave; a devastatingly brilliant one-woman show depicting diverse citizens of Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of Michael Brown’s shooting; original scores bellowing out at mid-day Chamber Music; the discovery of a Black Shaker community in the 1800s depicted by Reggie Wilson in expressive costume and dance. Is there not among us a sense of respect, an honoring of the maker in this, their moment of light?
Spoleto Festival USA performances (L to R): Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group; Unholy Wars; Omar; Until the Flood.
Our choices in the closet always announce our intent: to be comfortable at home, or flexible at the gym, or respectful at the office. So, what shall we wear to greet an inspired moment?
Samburu women greet me wearing piles of their best beaded necklaces and headdresses, simply out of respect; Tzotzil women in Mexico wearing their special ceremonial huipils, Indian women in fresh white saris. People of every culture and economic level know the power of dress to transform a moment, and oneself coming to that moment.
Of course, the opera will be stunning, or not, regardless of what one wears. But will I, in bland and banal dress, meet the magic, feel the marvel of the evening in the same way as I might if I dressed to participate in it?
I try to live prepared to be amazed. And that starts with a curious mind, a receptive heart, and, I want to say, a closet of possibilities.
Come on, said folk singer Jewels to her crowd of fans, and maybe to all of us… Come on, man… get excited.
All the Best,
New Himroo jackets of Ibu design made in Aurangabad, India, in collaboration with LoomKatha. The textiles are crafted using an age-old and complex weaving technique which almost disappeared, but has been recently revived and is supported by the Ibu Foundation.