Follow the Fool on an Enlightening Journey
By Suzanne Ludekens
Fri, Sep 19 and Sat, Sep 20, 7:30 pm
Teatro Ángela Peralta
Tickets available at the Teatro Ángela Peralta box office and La Conexión, Aldama 3
Wendy Mason admits never having just one career. Yet it is that jack-of-all-trades work experience, from massage therapist to production assistant for videos and shows to art director at a big community center in the Bronx, combined with a 40-year spiritual/philosophical practice with the Arica School that brought her to the issues that she addresses in her multi-media show. Enlighten-Up. A playful, poignant, and luscious-to-the-senses exploration of the human experience, it premieres September 19 and 20 at the Teatro Ángela Peralta. Between rehearsals, coordinating the production of scenery, props, and puppets and reviewing musical arrangements, Wendy answered a few questions.
Suzanne Ludekens: Why the title Enlighten-Up? Why do you want to “enlighten” us?
Wendy Mason: It’s a play on words. In our challenging times, I believe it is important to keep your sense of humor. We love the comedians in our culture who make us laugh at the darkest things. Even when on a spiritual/psychological path, I believe there is room to not take oneself so seriously⎯to lighten up. Aiming for the highest good doesn’t have to be such serious business.
SL: The main character is The Fool. Why is he so endearing?
WM: I was searching for an everyman character and in the tarot deck, the first and the last card is The Fool. In the beginning he represents innocence, as he faces his life. At the end of the deck, he has gained the wisdom from his life, but still maintains an innocent, childlike energy. I like his clown-like attributes and simplicity. He is light-hearted, he can make us laugh at ourselves. I thought he would be easily identified with.
SL: The show deals with “serious issues of life.” What specifically?
WM: It deals with all the manifestations of our mind, our ugliest aggressive, hate-filled behavior, disillusionment with our lives, what we do to distract ourselves so we do not have to deal with things that are uncomfortable—even the issue of suicide is dealt with briefly.
SL: What personal experiences have taught you the importance of being enlightened?
WM: I have spent 40 years in a living philosophical school and cannot think of a better thing to do with my life than to be the most openhearted, grounded to the earth, clear-minded human I can be…and for me, that is aiming towards a state of enlightenment. We all have the potential within to be more present in the moment, and if you are present in the moment, you have a better shot at understanding what is being called for in that moment. You can better be in service to humanity and not your own thoughts of past and future.
SL: Parts of the show are written in rhyme. How did Dr Seuss inspire you?
WM: Only the opening and brief summations throughout the show are in Dr. Seuss—type rhyme. I was able to take complicated issues and simplify them using that form. It turned into a very zen way of presenting big issues.
SL: The show has a large collaboration of artists. What is your favorite art in the show?
WM: I am very impressed with the nine short videos that local videographer Bernard Czelakowski produced for the show. He is a great visual storyteller. San Miguel artist Adolfo Falcon Garza designed puppets and 25-foot trees that bring a sense of magic to the stage. Singer Wendy Bichel performs two original songs, accompanied on piano by her husband Ken, an award-winning composer and performer. And of course there’s the expressive acting of Christian Baumgartner, who totally inhabits his character of The Fool. A lot of the script was written with him in mind.
SL: And for those who are not seeking “enlightenment,” why come to the show?
WM: For many, the word “enlightenment” is associated with gurus, candles, and crystals. But in its most basic interpretation, to enlighten is simply to bring more light or wisdom to ourselves. This show aims to shine a light on the commonality of our shared human experience through all kinds of artistic expression, without the “spiritual” or “religious” trappings often associated with “enlightenment.”