Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Playing to the Crowd

I recently read a theory as to why the old Globe Theatre, in London, was likely built “in the round,” with the audience in a circle surrounding a platform for the actors; it was because most of the actors got their start performing on the street. I also learned that, in contrast to Elizabethan life in general, with its many classes and much social distance, the Globe seems to have been a most egalitarian operation, allowing for common folk, as well as nobility, to view the show. For pennies a performance, large numbers of people from all classes could attend the performances of Shakespeare’s works. In addition, with no place “behind the curtain,” the Globe’s actors were required to do their dramas with few props.

In the theatre, the audience is often separated from the actors and the stage by a curtain and much distance. We are allowed to see only that presentation of the drama which the playwright, actors and stage management determine in advance that we should see. Indeed, some of the “magic” and “mystery” of theatre depends on the subtle manipulation of setting, perspective, lighting and sounds. But, reflecting the true life experiences of the “street actors,” the Globe was built very close to the audience, with what we might, today, refer to as a 360 view.

While I am no thespian, nor am I skilled or experienced in the science of staging, I think I much prefer the “in the round” and “up close and personal” approach to both theater construction and life construction. If, as the Bard is reported to have said, “"all the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players,” I am drawn toward the more honest and intimate way of “acting” life so that the whole person can be known, up close and whatever “props” are necessary can be seen for what they are.

Admittedly, all of us are attracted to “staging” in life. We like to time our “entrances,” make “dramatic exits.” “stand in the spotlight,” protect our backsides, utilize “props” generously and hide behind certain “screens.” We don’t like being “upstaged” and, quite naturally, we want to present our “best side” to others, controlling our “exposure.” There is, of course, a certain advantage to keeping the “behind the scenes” views obscured from the public, “playing” by a certain “script” and showing only what one wants to be seen.

On the other hand, each one of us needs, also, to “play” our lives before a select “audience” of folks who know us well and who can handle all sides of the presentation of our lives. In the honest commerce of “the street,” there should be little room for pretense and an openness to …, well, openness!

The longer I live, the more comfortable I have become with the “character” that, by God’s grace and my volitional choices, has developed within me; I hope that the characterizations which my life have taken on are an honest reflection of a central, foundational core. There is no doubt that I have been called upon to play a variety of roles, but, I have always wanted my “part” of this drama that we call life to be transparent and an honest reflection of the person on the inside – no masks and no pretend, notwithstanding an occasional touch of “drama.” I have noticed that this is also true of others who have lived a while and have stepped up to “play” a few “roles.” We “veteran actors” have less desire for makeup and little patience for pretense. We certainly don’t want to be “type cast,” preferring, rather, to respond to our “cues” and “speak our piece” with some sort of integrity until the house lights come up and the curtain of our humanity comes down.

“Break a leg!”


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