“Well, this seems fitting,” I said to John Blair, Esquire, as he posed for a picture in front of a bench. At least, that’s who he purported to be. As I sat down next to him, he inquired as to the reason for my comment.
Silly man that I am, I began to explain my Benched saga. He interrupted with a slightly off-topic comment about having skipped church because he was tired of the preaching of the rector. Then it dawned on me. I had been talking to him as if he was just a guy rather than a guy pretending to be a guy who lived two hundred years ago.
One should expect such things in Colonial Williamsburg.
I got into the flow of the make-believe. I asked questions about his church and its attitude towards those who miss services. (Slackers were only obligated to attend once a month.) I posed another about other denominations. (He confessed that he didn’t know the word.)
It was a performance, and I was a part of it.
Which made me think of jazz.
Williamsburg, with its starkly beautiful houses, would not normally be a place one contemplates jazz. In fact, it wasn’t until later the next day, as I found another bench in the late afternoon sun, that it came like an Aha! moment.
The improvisational nature of that dialogue was very much like the session I scribed last week – one that may have contained my favorite moment of scribing ever. In it, a jazz quintet invited a member of the audience to come up and tell a personal story. While he talked, they adlibbed a jazz score to accompany it. Meanwhile, I attempted capture it all visually.
It was incredible. Call it in-the-moment magic – an impromptu harmony of spontaneous word, music and drawing. No one knew where we were headed, but who cared – the journey was exhilarating. I’ve never been more buoyantly happy with a marker in my hand. (I can’t show you that part, but here’s what I drew when they first came out and played.)
Art that is unrehearsed, that plays with the boundary between performer and audience, that blends with music and storytelling -- this is my new-found north star. I’m not sure what the next step is, but I’m keeping that star in my sight.
Walking later down a back street in the historic district, I saw John again, this time presumably coming back from his break. As we passed, I said, “I enjoyed our conversation earlier.”
“As did I, sir,” he replied with a nod and touch of his hat.
Well-played, my extemporaneous friend. Well-played.