Searching For Kindred Spirits – a response to ‘My Name Is Gideon: I’m Probably Going To Die, Eventually’

Photo credit – Maria Baranova

I’ve been to Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre many times, both as an audience member and as an usher. I’ve walked up those rickety steps and I’ve waited in line for the single bathroom onstage with the best of them. Gideon Irving (with the help of Silovsky Studio’s scenic design) managed to transform Rattlestick into the apartment that we all wish we had. Twinkle lights hung from the ceiling. The hallways and walls were lined with decades of polaroid pictures, maps covered in notes and addresses documenting places Gideon has been and places he plans to go, journal entries and doodles ripped out of notebooks, and dozens of uniquely decorated CD covers. I couldn’t help but smile when I spotted a bin at the top of the stairs labeled “umbrellas” that was filled to the brim with luau-themed cocktail umbrellas.

Wearing patched jeans, a graphic t-shirt and a floral blazer, Gideon greeted audience members as they entered his “home” onstage. He chatted with almost everyone as he helped them find their seats. It immediately felt less like a formal show and more like a gathering of long lost friends.

My time in Gideon’s home was a beautiful respite from the lonely streets of New York City. I didn’t care about the myriad of texts or emails that I’d inevitably be receiving when I turned my phone back on. Gideon Irving had things to say and songs to sing and he had easily earned my undivided attention. In return, I got to experience an hour and forty-five minutes of pure human connection.

Undivided attention is a rare thing these days. Lately, I’ve found it especially hard to concentrate on what’s happening to me in the moment because I’m so busy trying to keep track of all of the other things on my plate. I often try to catch up on “other work” while I’m at work, which inevitably means everything takes twice as long. I have to remind myself to take a breath and be present; tackle one thing at a time. Life is about being in the moment before the moment is gone.

Gideon’s songs, much like Gideon himself, live completely in the moment. They are full of heart, truth, and playfulness. Passion radiated through his whole being as he played and sang. His performance was so genuine that even when he sang in another language, I understood exactly what he was saying. He told stories of love and of loss, stories about the nuts and bolts of human connection, and stories of “carrots, machetes, and who we thought we were a long time ago.” Every moment of the show was brimming with joy, even as Gideon recalled moments of sadness. I felt that I was receiving a remarkable gift. I was watching a performer who was absolutely loving what he was doing (and honestly, with all the gleeful tricks Gideon had up his sleeve, it’s hard to imagine a performer not loving being able to give that performance). It was a wonderful reminder that theater has the ability to make even the most level-headed adults giggle and whisper to the person next to them, “How did he come up with that?!”

Gideon welcomed audiences into a world that is built upon believing in the innate goodness of people. Despite our current political climate that has fear pulsing through our daily lives, he trusts strangers to welcome him into their homes just as he has trusted audiences to enter into his. It seems that Gideon dreams of cool, innovative things to do and then with detailed research and blind trust in humanity, he jumps off a cliff and starts putting those dreams into action. He seems to have found the perfect balance of carefully calculated decisions and adventurous whimsy which left me asking myself, “Why don’t I live my life this way?”

I left My Name Is Gideon: I’m Probably Going To Die, Eventually feeling uplifted and inspired. I felt like I had just become great friends with Gideon and wanted to call him to see if he wanted to grab dinner sometime next week. I felt so connected to him and to his songs that I went home and downloaded his album (entitled “My Brother Is Isaac”) which I have been listening to on repeat ever since. In my opinion, this exemplifies why art is important. Art has the ability to profoundly change us. It connects complete strangers on an incredibly deep level. Art constantly proves that we are not alone in this world. We are all searching for kindred spirits, we just have to be present and open enough to recognize them when they come along.

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