In my opinion, a good actor is one who can play a role and I forget it is a “role,” suspend my disbelief, and begin witnessing the “act” as though it is real life, as though it is really happening right then, right there. It’s one of the reasons I so love movies… every movie is a new opportunity to experience a different “real” life.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to spend the bulk of my day with my daughter and her friends from her theatre club at regional competition. My daughter was in the dramatic monologue competition so I got to spend many hours watching her and the other competitors in that division. I was completely stunned by the excellence they displayed. Suddenly, these rambunctious teenagers metamorphosed into full grown adults, aged by the years of living lives of choices in which the consequences thereof weren’t always that pleasant.
I was moved by the woman who was fighting the divorce and suddenly wanted to keep her marriage alive. I cried while I watched another woman share her horrifying diagnosis of HIV positive. I sat on the edge of my seat while a woman in Stage 4 Metastatic Ovarian Cancer was visibly racked by pain, died, and transformed into a vibrant spirit. I was pulled to the guillotine where Marie Antoinette spoke her dying words. I yearned with the mother who was an unfit mother, but so longing to have her child be given back and was literally fighting the system to “prove” she was worthy to be a mother. I was enthralled with the Irish-Jamaican woman who tried to rationalize away the horror of killing 17 of their friends so the rest of the island could survive because there wasn’t enough food to keep everyone alive. And I felt thoroughly heartbroken as I listened to the young girl with Autism who shared her bumpy, jaggedy, weaving-winding tale of her birth and subsequent life and how she was never “quite right.”
The depth, breadth, and aliveness of each of these characters that became not characters, but real, living, breathing people telling me their life stories was so believable, rich, and poignant. I marveled at the abilities of the hundreds of kids there in that space, doing what they so passionately and obviously love with such energy and excitement. The building pulsated with their high energy and vibrance. It was actually possible to believe, there in that space, for those long hours, that these children were all safe always, all protected always, all honored always, all cherished always.
Theatre becomes the home for many misfits. It is there that they finally feel they belong, that they have peers who love them. It is there that they can be who they are and be accepted for all their “weirdness” because nobody is “normal” in theatre. It is there where drama is understood and called out, even. It is there where loud voices and raucous laughter is acceptable, youthful play is commonplace, and the unifying camaraderie of having a place to “be” that is outside of the “real world” becomes a haven for all who call themselves “theatre geeks.”
So, for the time that I spent submerged in their youthful exuberance, I forgot how much these kids face every single day. I forgot how many of them are probably hungry and hiding it, or are hungry because they are choosing that as a way to maintain their weight. I forgot how many of them have lived with violence and in a constant state of fear. I forgot how many of them have been bullied, maybe still are being bullied. I forgot how many of them are suicidal because they are continually teased because of their apparent lifestyle “choices.”
It was such a life-affirming experience to witness their strength, their majesty, their breathtaking talents, and their vibrant aliveness. For those hours, while we were all ensconced in the protective and oh so beautiful bubble of theatre, all was right with the world. In that space of suspended disbelief, everyone was whole, satisfied, and content. Magical!
ps… I welcome your comments, questions, and feedback. What is your favorite part of the theatre experience?