I reread John Malkovich’s 2012 WTD address again and again this week:
“May your work be compelling and original. May it be profound, touching, contemplative, and unique. May it help us to reflect on the question of what it means to be human, and may that reflection be blessed with heart, sincerity, candor, and grace. May you overcome adversity, censorship, poverty and nihilism, as many of you will most certainly be obliged to do. May you be blessed with the talent and rigor to teach us about the beating of the human heart in all its complexity, and the humility and curiosity to make it your life’s work. And may the best of you – for it will only be the best of you, and even then only in the rarest and briefest moments – succeed in framing that most basic of questions, ‘how do we live?’ Godspeed.”
The speech was addressed to “fellow theatre workers, peers and comrades.” But of course his message extends more broadly to offer a general hope for deep meaning in art. And for me, Malkovich’s words exactly capture the sentiment of the work of one artist in particular. Kurt Vonnegut is known mostly as a novelist, only having dabbled in drama (see Happy Birthday Wanda June). His books cut to the core of Malkovich’s hope for art.
There’s no question that Vonnegut’s novels are compelling and original. They invite reflection, contemplation, and question what it means to be human with heart and sincerity. His stories always seem absolutely free of filters or censorship and prove a surprising antidote to nihilism. They are complex, humble, and curious. His books are the best of humanist fiction.
Vonnegut simultaneously uncovers both how terrible this world can be and how wonderful it really is. He never fails to ask Malkovich’s most basic of questions, “how do we live?”
I think Vonnegut’s work has great potential for the stage. His writing is heavy with the sort of hope that Malkovich wishes the theatre community to carry.
Little Mountain Lion Productions acknowledges that we create and stage works in Vancouver, BC, on the unceded Coast Salish Territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. Our collaborators have been born, raised on, or have travelled to this land, and it as well as the stories of its peoples are very dear to our hearts.