I imagine an upside-down bell curve, with high peaks on either end for minds made of wrought iron and soft lead, and a low, low dip of independent, clear-thinking minds in the middle.
"When did I first know?" David repeats, to indicate that it is an important question. "The first day of kindergarten. I look up from my new desk and I see..."
(David takes on the role of himself, age 5, replaying the moment, SHOWING me the memory)
"I look up and see...David, David Knapp."
"His long sleeved knit shirt had eight inch stripes in green, tan and brown. He walked into the classrom, facing me, and went right (west) and sat in the single line of chairs along the wall, facing east. Then and there I wanted to touch that shirt, that skin, that boy-to-be-man." - Stories From A Life (undated outline, perhaps for a biographical speech)
David learned to act in an effort to hide his homesexuality.
"The Joe McCarthy times. The Kinsey's Reports (1950, 1952)with J. Edgar Hoover prosecuting in the background. Learning to disguise what I was, to act a part. Learning secret love." - Stories From A Life
David Mason came to WWSC in 1966 as an out gay man but he did not actually sit down and talk about being gay with his parents until Fairhaven College got going, around 1968, as he prepared to teach what would become one of the first gay studies classes, anywhere.
"Were your parents upset when you told them?" I asked David in 1999.
"They were terribly terribly upset."
"Oh." I responded sadly.
"They were very upset - for three days."
I thought about that, about Lucile and Herbert having no grandchildren, and their concern for David's career and how he would be treated. I pondered the impact that David's open homosexuality was bound to have on their own careers, and their relationships with family, friends and colleagues.
"They were upset, really really upset, for three days?" I repeated.
–I come from a commitment to comrades
Their love is as close to truth as I’ll ever be worthy
“For you, for you I am trilling these songs.” - Blue Baroque
Dr. David T. Mason taught ENSEMBLE.
His plays, ideally, took longer to produce - like half again as long or twice as long as plays usually take to produce. For the first weeks of rehearsals David would send groups off to work on their scenes and they would return and try them out in front of the whole cast and crew. The whole group decided on what "worked". Same with costumes and sets - lots of time was given for experimentation and group process and explosive creativity. In those first weeks David sought and explored everyone's most exotic, probably-impossible-to-pull-off, ideas.
As the weeks progressed, David very very subtly took more of the alpha authoritarian director's role - though his goal was to NEVER have to. Still, he surprised the cast of several plays down through the years with displays of cosmic anger that scared the living crap out of everyone right before, or after, the dress rehearsal.
Was David the smartest person any of us will ever meet?
My opinion: yes.
Was David the best teacher we will likely ever meet?
My opinion: Well yes. Except that all the teachers who started Fairhaven College, and many of them since, are also the best teachers any of us are likely to ever meet. Their students are amazing teachers/models of non-authoritarianism, extremely skillful at ensemble as well.
Hosting Fairhaven College's very first commencement ceremony Dr. David T. Mason told the audience:
"If there has been one thread running through the brief history of this college, it is perhaps an unpredictable vitality, rebelling against needless organization, but rising in effective activity when something worthwhile must be done."
David's most direct method of enacting leadership at Fairhaven College was to cast all sides together in a play. Theater challenges people to play different roles and learn new scripts - to try it on from someone else's viewpoint. Producing a play together could highlight problems in community dynamics, or in individual's issues, in ways that inspired, sometimes forced, people/communities to change.
[Humble(d) example: I made a public fool of myself as the Assistant Director of David's last Mikado. David taught non-authoritarian theater, and though I didn't want to fall back into old patriarchal theater (cult) paradigms, I did anyway. Embarrassing, but I apologised to David and others, and kept going]
Was David the most skillful cult deprogrammer imaginable?
My opinion: Yes.
Was David among the greatest theater directors ever?
"Most challenging acting role?" David ponders my question and then says, "Make that roleS - at a Summer Gilbert and Sullivan Festival I played six lead roles in all six operas being produced."
"I didn't do enough street theater."
Ken and David and I attended "The Dance" at "The Purple Church" most every week for several years until David's Parkinson symptoms got too severe to handle all the movement/excitement. "The Dance" was called the "Undisco" when it started at Fairhaven College. Dr. Kenyth Freeman considered the "Undisco" the laboratory for "The Body, Breath and Awareness" class. Fairhaven College students have kept "the floater dance" going under several different facilitators, names, and venues, ever since.
[Actually the whole dance community of Bellingham WA, our amazing local circus scene, the Bellingham Food Coop, the buy local and organic farming community, our recycling industries, Bellingham Children's Theater (David lit up, beamed, gasped, looking fully love-struck, everytime the name Drue Robinson was ever mentioned - and David mentioned her, himself, often), The New Old Time Chautauqua (greatest show on earth!- DM) the Homemade Music Society...actually our whole regional music, poetry, opera, fine art, environmental, and theater scenes, all have former Fairhaven College students and professors as stars in positions of influence.]
One winter night in the year 2000, at "The Dance" at The Purple Church (home of the Bellingham Unitarian Universalist Fellowship when I was growing up), I sat with David on an old pew against the side wall of the now privately owned sanctuary-turned-dance-hall-yoga-studio. We were resting after having exercised hard during the previous song. The place was packed, with 30 or 40 dancers, many/most connected with Fairhaven College, past and/or present.
My partner, Ken Whitley, created the music CD that evening - so the songs were surprising, varied, funny, old, new, cohesive, and all over the place.
As David and I settled back, catching our breath, a crazy modern "Joy Jesu (Joy of Man's Desiring- Bach)" burst into the room:
Joy - Apollo 100
David and I watched as three dozen dancers instantly responded to the music by running across the room, or skipping, some seemingly flying over the space, weaving and spinning around each other - like leaves in the wind, or fire flies swirling - all in breath-taking accord. Had any of them touched, they would have flowed with the contact like Akido masters. They never touched. There was no leader, or there were many. Dr. Leslie Conton was there and Dr. Kenyth Freeman was dancing, but he hadn't started it. Not THAT night, I mean.
It was perfect ENSEMBLE, perfect improvizational ENSEMBLE ala Fairhaven College Body, Breath and Awareness training. Wow.
It might have been that very evening, or another night when Ken provided the music, that Ken played the Macarena (of all things) at the Dance.
I got to stop and watch - as both Dr. David T.Mason and Dr. Kenyth Freeman, stopped and watched - in wonder, awe, and laughing appreciation - a matrix of colorful free spirits - 5 deep by 6 wide - instantly form - and dance the MACARENA(of all things) - again in perfect Ensemble.