I never look ahead of time to see what kind of plane I’ll be on and what the amenities are, but was surprised that this 11-hour flight to Seoul was the old-fashioned one-screen-no-choice-one-movie-for-all variety. Missed the credits to the first one, but it didn’t look enticing until I noticed that it starred Gwyneth Paltrow, Robert Downing Jr., Don Cheadle and others, respectable actors/actresses all. So I started tuning in to what can best be described as two and a half hours of non-stop explosions interrupted occasionally by inane dialogue. (For those curious, it was Iron Man or Iron Man II or some unbelievable suffix hinting that the first must have been so terrible they had to go lower yet.)
But I did salvage a thought from deep in the dumpster. Didn’t Gwyneth Paltrow win an Oscar for Shakespeare in Love? Yes, I believe she did back in 1998. From the jewels of Shakespeare to the juvenile trash of Iron Man is quite a plunge. And there was Don Cheadle, who stunned me in Hotel Rwanda. Robert Downey Jr. I’ve never liked all that much, but he did decent work in Chaplin and Sherlock Holmes, amidst other films. So though not a stunningly original thought, it struck me how actors are at the mercy of their scripts and equally at the mercy of invitations that will keep their career alive, even if it be pure junk. Pity the poor movie stars!
And admire anew the Orff teachers giving workshops. We write our own scripts, direct our own classes, produce our own itinerary and act in our own plays, sometimes the lead, sometimes the supporting actor, sometimes the guy in the crowd scene as we turn over the story to the participants. When it comes to giving an Orff workshop to adults or course for teachers or class to kids, we never feel compromised, stuck in someone else’s bad script. Though we may complain about having to do everything, the freedom it gives us and the integrity that it preserves is not to be taken lightly.
And telescope that thought out further. On some level, we’re all actors stuck in someone else’s script— our parent’s role that they assigned to us, our government’s, our gender’s, our culture’s. If we’re fortunate, it’s a life-giving story and a great role worthy of Oscar-nomination. But at the end of the matter is our struggle to find the story we are meant to play in, to write the screenplay, direct the action and fill the role from head-to-toe. Like Jackie Robinson in the next airplane movie, 42.
And so off the plane in search of the bed that is paradise for the jet-lagged traveler, about to step yet again into the comfortable shoes of the traveling music teacher. Goodnight, good morning and good luck to me hoping to awaken at the far end of a Korean sunrise.