Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Element of Fire

“…perhaps it has not been sufficiently noted that fire is more a social reality than a natural reality.”
Gaston Bachelard
The Psychoanalysis of Fire

“I think I’ve always been interested in fire,” admits playwright Judy GeBauer. “My parents were burned out totally in the Oakland fire of 1991. They were fortunate to survive. We had a ranch property up near Humboldt that burned. So it’s come up in our family a lot, and I think there was just something in the back of my consciousness that wanted to address fire on a kind of mythic level as well as a practical and literal way.”

As one of the four basic elements, and the one most associated with human civilization, fire has been an important mythological theme. It is the act of stealing fire from the gods to give to humanity that condemns Prometheus.

As a source of both light and heat, fire has a double nature that generates opposites. It destroys and purifies, it burns and warms, it turns everything to black ashes, and its light reveals hidden places. Fire is a metaphor for anger and for desire.

Its double nature is found in this play, director Dan Stone believes. “These people come together to put out this huge, menacing forest fire that can at any minute take this town out. They have to come together for each other. They are dealing with this physical fire, as well as their personal fires. This town is trying to save itself, and the characters are trying to save themselves.”

Of course, the practical threat of wild fires is all too clear to North Coast audiences, especially this year. Its local relevance was in fact one of the appeals of this play. “It seemed very topical to me, even though the horrific wildfires we’ve had this year weren’t yet happening when we selected the play,” Margaret Kelso said. “We have to deal with wildfires every summer in California."

"But that’s not the only reason we chose it," she added. "We also liked the style of it—it’s a realistic drama, but with mythic elements to it. It’s also about fire and the human relationship to fire, for good or ill.”

1 comment:

firefighter08 said...

If you have any interest, I have just published a coming of age novel about a young man from LA County Fire Department who is trapped on a mountainside in a burnover.
Its called One Foot in the Black