Reverb12: Moved by Art

I’m going to stay with the DailyAngst list today.

What was the most moving piece of art that you saw/experienced this year?  This could mean a painting or a sculpture, or a performance you took in, or even a book that you read – tell us about the kind of art you encountered, and the way that it moved you.

The Canadian television show, Slings and Arrows.

The program, which I discovered this spring through Netflix suggestions, is from several years ago. It takes place in a fictitious professional theatre company. Each of the three six-episode seasons focuses mostly on the company’s misadventures as they mount a specific Shakespearean play, while trying to retain relevance and solvency. All the while the ghost of the former artistic director of the place haunts his replacement and one-time friend.

Ostensibly it’s a comedy. Without a doubt there are many laughs within the show. But looking deeper into its dynamic one finds a stirring,  intelligent, multi-layered examination of art, the artists who create it, and why they do so. (The good reasons, as well as the poor ones.) Produced, written and acted with such obvious passion for the subject matter, the resultant series can be called art itself.

As someone who has been involved in theatre for years, I recognized in just about every character in this show someone that I have either known or worked with in the 30 or so productions I have appeared in over the years. Also familiar were the particular vocabularies and obstacles of theatrical life. This familiarity with the world and the people of the stories being told made this well crafted piece of television art all the more moving to me. (Especially the first season, which by far is the best.)

There is more to it than familiarity, though.  Part of the brilliance of Slings and Arrows is that the familiar aspects of theatre life are just the harmony and not the melody. A bonus for those of us in the know that’s anchored by a main story line about love, friendship, passion, dreams and creativity. A base story line that thoughtful people from many walks of life will find moving as well as humorous.


Watching it for the first time was more than mere entertainment to me. Though I was highly entertained as well, watching this program unfold was at times almost as though the language of my deepest passions aspirations and dreams had coalesced into a cogent structure for a time, and were speaking directly to me. A striking sense of being there in that show and knowing those people. Or at least having been there and known these people at some point in the past. Some episodes were not stories, but projections from within me.

That is one of the true characteristics of the best art, is it not? An exciting newness blended with a transcendent familiarity. Almost as though you knew the work of art in some way before you first saw it. There is a degree of inevitability in the best art. Best of all, different works strike different people in the way I’m describing. Sometimes it’s a painting. Sometimes a movie. A play or novel. Television. Perhaps a novel about a painting. A movie about a novel. Or in my case this time, a television show about  a play(s). The possibilities of what art speaks to us and why are endless. Which is why we must try to consume as much of it as we can.


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