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September 20, 2017 | Notes From Leadership,

HOME, Kiss, and the Magic of Theatre


I believe in the magic of theatre. I trust its power to whisk us past the limits of our intellect and our lived experience, to get us out of our heads by entering us through our hearts. I have experienced its capacity to reveal the familiar in the foreign and close the distance between me and you. And I know its capacity to disrupt my settled sense of the world and my place in it.

At ArtsEmerson, we use the magic carpet ride of theatre to chase our vision: a thriving world, fueled by empathy, ignited by art. Our programs face the world, though they may take you inward along the way, and embrace the daily challenges of life in our city. We aim for ArtsEmerson to be a citizen of civic efforts to surmount those challenges in Boston and to enroll our audience in that effort along with us. And, all the while, to entertain you. It’s a tall order and it requires we work with artists who are willing to take up the task.

Geoff Sobelle and Guillermo Calderon are masters of theatre’s magical powers. Each of them delights in the sleight of hand, each is keenly focused on the audience and each makes an
unexpected ask of us then rewards us for playing along. They, too, face the world. Where Geoff’s preoccupations in HOME are domestic, Guillermo’s Kiss calls us abroad. HOME bends time, Kiss bends distance. Both intend to trigger our empathy motor around knotty problems that have devastating human consequences.

Geoff’s HOME begins on a bare stage from which he conjures not just a house, but its whole history. By first building the house and then filling it with generations of memories, he evokes that private sense of home in each of us. And then, in engaging the audience in such direct  and surprising ways, he pulls us out of that private place and creates, among the group of us, a shared sense of home. All of us belong here and each of us can feel it. No matter where you come from, or how you came to be here, you are part of what makes this place home. All this,
without words.


Kiss begins on a set. In all of Guillermo’s plays he’s playing on our willingness to suspend our disbelief. Guillermo grew up in the Pinochet era in Chile. He knows, firsthand, the calamity that lurks in the shadows where empathy has failed and the dangers of comfortably distancing ourselves from the problems of others. Through his young, earnest, committed protagonists he calls us all to mind that gap. What will it take to truly connect across it? What casualties will befall those stranded on the other side in the meanwhile? Guillermo does not try to make you feel the plight of Syria (Gardens Speak, on the Robert J. Orchard Stage does that). Guillermo makes you feel the distance.

  • David Dower, Co-Artistic Director

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