Think about our world of ursine creativity. Don’t we have so much to be grateful for? For this kick-off blog of 2017, I’m thinking about a show I just watched on cable-TV. I make no apologies for my appreciation of a good televised program. (Okay, I’m not a totally whole, solid, unmoving couch potato, but I am a couch French fry! I can lay about with the best of them, while sipping a nice Beaujolais.) A show I recently, unexpectedly stumbled upon got me to ponder the beautiful parts of being immersed in the bear world.
If you’re lucky enough to have HBO — and I know a lot of people are cutting back on luxuries and exorbitant cable bills — this play will probably be airing in heavy rotation. Now, normally, the notion of a play broadcast on TV is not all that exciting. Seeing a videotaped play loses something in translation. The immediacy of the actor/audience affair is eradicated. It’s just like watching a sitcom that is taped in front of a live studio audience. It doesn’t usually hold up.
However, “Everything That’s Brilliant” is definitely worth catching as we begin a new, uncertain year. It is co-written by actor-comedian Jonny Donahoe (who performs it) and playwright Duncan Macmillan. It deals with a young boy whose mother is living with depression. One day, when he is six years old, his mother cannot battle anymore. She attempts suicide, and does not succeed. Her desire to end her life prompts her first-grade son to compile a list of everything worth living for — a cheat sheet of “Everything That’s Brilliant.”
Here’s a sample bit of dialogue:
You’re six years old. Mum’s in hospital. Dad says she’s ‘done something stupid.’ She finds it hard to be happy. So you start to make a list of everything that’s brilliant about the world.
1. Ice Cream
2. Kung Fu Movies
3. Burning Things
4. Laughing so hard you shoot milk out your nose
5. Construction cranes
You leave it on her pillow. You know she’s read it because she’s corrected your spelling. Soon, the list will take on a life of its own.
The show runs about an hour, and it will make you grateful for the little things that surround you, and it will also give you an understanding of the fears, anxieties, and unraveling bonds that surround a person who is living in a chronically depressed state. It is a piece of triumphant theater, even if the subject matter is unflinching and uncompromising.
The main character’s list-making follows him across his life. We see and hear him as he reaches “#314 The way Ray Charles sings the word ‘YOOOOOU.’” We also observe as he writes daily affirmations that reach into the thousands.
Well, in honor of 2017, I’m not going to rattle off 2,017 brilliant things about being an arctophile, but I shall list 11 of my favorite things (with a nod to both the actor Jonny Donahoe and the sunniest Maria of them all, Julie Andrews).
#1: Bear artists have a sense of humor and a sense of community. (From quirky and cute creations to ridiculous and rollicking ones, bear makers know how to make us laugh and smile.)
#2: Bear collecting is an equal-opportunity hobby. (I love dolls a whole lot, but there still exists that pesky gender barrier.) Bears have stomped through the barricades and have emerged on the other side, waiting to be loved by all people.
#3: A bunch of bears is called a hug. What can be more charming, and more precise, than that? Nothing!
#4: Bears are multilingual. Do you want to say “I love you” in any language, in any culture? Hand over a bear and watch the smile spread across your intended’s face. (Bears are ice breakers — even if they are not polar bears!)
#5: Bears are better than any nighttime storybook. Want to get a little tyke to fall asleep? Sure, you can read a bunch of stories or point out a series of lovely illustrations. But a child snuggling with his or her favorite bear companion will do the trick. A fairy tale cannot compete with a bear tail!
#6: Bears don’t go out of fashion. Whether it’s a bare bear or a dressed bear, a bear’s appearance or wardrobe is classic. It stands the test of time.
#7: Bears don’t mind a few extra ounces or pounds! It’s not a coincidence that Winnie-the-Pooh is built like a toddler. The round belly and the rotund shape are reminiscent of a tiny, well-fed child. In the bear world, big can be (and is) desirable.
#8: Bears don’t break apart or break your heart. (Unless, they are caught in the jaws of your canine companion or clawed by a fierce feline.)
#9: Bears can fit into luggage and don’t grouse about long car trips, train rides, or airline flights. They just hunker down and wait to see you at the hotel.
#10: Bears welcome all newcomers. There’s never a physical fight or an arctophile argument or a stuffed scrape when a new bear (or other critter) joins the pack. All bears and animals are welcome. (And all bear collectors and bear artists welcome each other into the fold!)
#11; And FINALLY: Bear collectors are lifelong aficionados. It is not a fair-weather hobby or a seasonal pastime. Once a bear devotee, you’re always a bear devotee. That’s a pledge that is as sweet as a honeysuckle breeze.