An old acquaintance, a friend of my late sister, included my name in his New Year’s wish. Yeah, big whoop, you say, easy to “tag” in Facebook or mail-merge “personalized” letters. But wait.
My name is Magid – I might be the only one you’ve run into, or maybe you know one or two others. Not a common name, we all trace to a certain fellow in Lithuania, many generations back.
We are also all tied to a heritage.
Magid, like Baker or Chandler or Smith, describes a vocation. Sometimes spelled maggid, it’s a Hebrew word (מגיד) that means “he who tells” or “storyteller.” No, I didn’t adopt it in some fit of 1970s folk-circuit hippie-wanna-be namechangery, it was my father’s name, and his father’s, and his. I always saw my heritage as interpretational, having spent my life from age 8 onward as a secondary artist, a singer, an actor, a dancer, translating others’ seminal works through my instrument.
And then I started playwrighting and composing.
I’ve been doing that since 2008, calling on an almost-lifetime of experience and observation to hone these new disciplines but also studying, training, balancing how to sift and assimilate criticism, learning craft so that I could hopefully, at some point, infuse it with art.
This year, I’ve also had a growing sense of the power of our society’s new interconnectedness, which sense sprouted alongside the constantly broadcast information that the societal gains made by women in the 1970s have been largely sidetracked.
And then came New Year’s Adam. Yes, you read it right, the night before the night before. I spent that night and the next day and evening in a state of almost-hibernation, riding that end-of-year emotional rollercoaster of gratitude and regret, of totting-up and finding things wanting, of incessant reminders of my enormous good fortune in life balanced against what often feels like an interior hole the size of Pittsburgh.
Most of my family is dead, the family I grew up in. I prize my surviving sister, but she’s the only person left – parents, our eldest sister, aunts, uncles, grandparents. I have long, strong ties to two other families and am fortunate to have them in my life; I have long, strong ties to both of my religions – Judaism and theater; I have those same ties with very dear friends; but I’m basically alone in the world. Well, that was the ‘regret’ portion of my maunderings.
Until, for whatever cosmic reason, up popped my name.
Maggid (why people add a “g” is beyond me, it’s not spelled מגגיד) usually refers to an itinerant preacher or troubadour, not the big religious honcho but the one who brings information and entertainment to the masses. I like to think I’ve done that over the past 50 years, entertained, helped facilitate the gift of laughter and the group-mind experience that the most fortunate audiences undergo. But I’ve always known that there’s more, there’s entertainment that edifies, there are sparks of fellow-feeling that translate into bonfires that both consume destructive elements and keep us from freezing in the night.
Let’s face it, we humans learn by doing, participating, becoming emotionally involved, not by listening to some learned type pontificating, and that makes my responsibility so much the greater. As an interpreter of others’ works, I held that if I could make an audience see something from even a slightly different perspective, I’d done my job. As a seminal artist, it’s up to me to create a milieu in which change is not only advantageous, but critical and inherent.
What will this mean in the coming year, in my coming works? I look forward to finding out.
Here’s wishing a happy, healthy, productive, laughter- and beauty-filled, and – in the words of a dear friend – a jerk-free New Year to one and all.
©2013 all rights reserved