Artists begin with an idea, a message they wish to convey to their audiences. This is true of painters, singers, musicians, filmmakers, photographers, and authors, each choosing a different medium where his or her unique views and thoughts are revealed. The messages are sometimes blatant, sometimes subtle, sometimes obscure, but always dependent upon the viewer, listener, or reader to complete the circuit from sender to receiver.
I set out to express a particular message in Shadow Ballet, but as the characters told me their stories I discovered other important views and ideas to flavor the rather large picture I had chosen to create. By placing myself in each character and listening to each character’s words and thoughts, I became a conduit for what each had to say to the reader. In the manner of an audience member, I set my characters on stage and watched them perform their parts in the story, writing down every subtle nuance I observed, discovering inferences, attitudes, feelings, and emotions in the raw.
In this way more than a single message became embedded in Shadow Ballet. The reader can choose any of them, all of them, or may even find a hidden treasure the author may not have intentionally laid in the story, but one that speaks clearly to the reader. The beauty of art in all its forms is the ability to touch the audience, bring forth memories, inspire thought, ignite emotion, and transport you into a space you might not otherwise venture. Whether the message received is specifically what was sent or not is irrelevant. What is important is that a message is received. Even a response of indifference is still a message received. As the adage goes, you can reach some of the people all of the time or all of the people some of the time, but you can’t reach all the people all of the time.
At its heart, Shadow Ballet is about second chances, new beginnings, and an optimistic expression of hope in the midst of disaster. Each day offers the opportunity for good things to happen. Look for the worst and you will find it; look for the best and you will find it, even in the worst day. There are messages in the stream of events that make up our lives, and while being aware of them is a challenge, listening to them is the toughest challenge of all.
The shadows of despair and the light of hope dance together for each of us. When life knocks you down, and it will, the challenge is to stand up, dust yourself off, and defiantly declare: “Is that the best you’ve got?”
We don’t learn from what works, only from what doesn’t. These are the messages in the stream we call experience and upon which we work to build each day.