Friday, May 13, 2011

All the World's a Stage

It's not only fun to step out of oneself and into another persona, it's educational and life affirming too. As I think I have noted before, I have been an actress since the first grade. Over the course of my life on stage I have become a number of different things and/or people. I've been a run-away pancake, the Queen of Hearts, Cinderella's evil Stepmother, a snobby rich lady, an affable talk show hostess, Tolkien's Thorin, King of the Dwarves, Marion the Librarian, Mrs. Petronella VanDaan, Dolly Levi, Neil Simon's Karen Nash, an elderly woman, an opera singing witch, Thornton Wilder's Mrs. Webb, Ado Annie, Maria Von Trapp, Lady Larkin, Charles' Dickens' Nancy, The Wicked Witch of the West, Rosalie, a back up singer, and a Victorian housekeeper.

These different roles allowed me the chance to try on different faces, costumes, and scenarios. I had the opportunity to change my speech and to think in different ways. I find myself recalling a particular play or character from time to time. Each one made an impact upon me as I grew from childhood into adulthood.

Today I found myself thinking of my high school production of “The Diary of Anne Frank”. That particular play, the most serious play I'd ever been involved in, affected me greatly. In the role of holocaust victim Mrs. Petronella Van Daan, I went to the secret annex, protected by the Frank family who shared the space. Petronella's spirit was broken when she had to give up her fur coat so as to pay for necessities to be brought in from the outside. The final scene in the play when the Nazis find the group's hiding space is especially haunting and as an actress, it was the scene that made me want to pursue acting beyond the high school drama club.

I have only one life, but in my hobby of theater I have been able to live other lives. I have been able to “try on” the experiences of people very different from myself. I have experienced this to some degree in my reading, creative writing, and viewing of films too but an added dimension of stepping into another's shoes is present on the stage. It's something that I cannot get enough of. I find performing music also allows me a certain transformation into other time periods and experiences, but on a smaller, more limited scale.

My past experiences with acting have given me greater insight and understanding of differences. Not all of my characters have been admirable people but their individual challenges or struggles are worthy of respect. Each has strengthened my ability to become more tolerant and empathetic in my dealings with others in “real life” off stage. Actors typically draw inspiration for their craft from the real world. Their study of real people helps them as they work with characterization on stage. I suppose I'm reflecting upon the fact that I do the reverse.

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts.

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