“Meaningless! Meaningless!”, says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” – Ecclesiastes, New International Version.
In the New International Version of the Bible, the Hebrew word ‘Hebel’ translates as ‘meaningless’, but the Hebrew word – admittedly being poetically employed – literally meant ‘vapour’, ‘breath’, or ‘absurd’. Or, to use a more theatrical term, ephemeral.
“Ephemeral! Ephemeral!”, says the Teacher. “Utterly ephemeral! Everything is ephemeral.”
It can be too easy for us theatre artists to develop inferiority complexes. Paintings survive for centuries. Musical scores play on. Films and television shows rise again on DVDs and stream on Netflix. But a theatrical performance happens once, and then is gone.
We theatre artists wrestle with the question of whether or not what we are creating is important; after all, what perseveres? Do we really contribute to society if the creation ends the moment the final curtain falls? If there are no monuments standing at the end of our resumés?
Do we deserve that allotment of charity funding that could go to another non-profit society?
But we are not the only ephemeral creators out there, flitting about in an ocean of solid substance. Everything is ephemeral. The permanence of other mediums is an illusion. We all create works that move the hearts, minds, and spirits of both our audiences and our collaborators, and then our works disappear.
Different mediums have different strengths and weaknesses (which I have even attempted to chart at one time), but permanence? Everything is ephemeral. Just like theatre. Just like life.