Nov 23, 2015

All the world's a stage

Life is a creative act. It's a piece of performance art that we create with the people around us, saying things, doing things, responding (or not responding) to their responses. The unpredictability of the other players means that even the most mapped out of moments, the most carefully crafted of events, ends up being largely improvised based on our thoughts and emotions and words and actions, and on the thoughts and emotions and words and actions of others, which are the mixed media we use to create this art, to varying degrees of effectiveness.

Setting plays a big role, of course. The time of day or night, the season, the geographic location, the confines of a room or the expanse of the wild: all these factors dictate meaning and mood. Lighting, too, is important for the overall effect, as are the objects around us that we use as props, the cigarette lighters and bottles of beer, the books and cars and cell phones and packs of gum.

A piece that would otherwise be poignant and personal when performed for a single audience member plays differently in front of a large crowd.

Moments of regret are artistic failures. Those times you try to connect with your audience and everything falls flat. Sometimes the plot is convoluted and unclear. Sometimes the dialogue, despite your best intentions, is overwrought and clich├ęd. Sometimes the character you're playing doesn't suit you (blame it on bad casting). Sometimes you walk your way through the lines others have scripted for you (it's never convincing). And sometimes you find yourself at the mercy of someone else's directorial choices, wondering why on earth you accepted this role, and trying to find a way out of the contract you've agreed to by the mere act of existing in a world where we are all simultaneously the protagonists and each other's bit parts.

There are, however, also moments of uncategorical success. Those pieces that come together, either effortlessly or painstakingly (or a paradoxical combination of both), in a pure, perfect moment of brilliance, when the setting and the lighting and the props and all your thoughts and emotions and words and actions coincide so harmoniously with the thoughts and emotions and words and actions of the other members of your company that you look at each other, and you look out at the audience, and you all know with no uncertainty that this will be remembered for years to come.

And that is why we continue to wake up every day from those plays we create for ourselves alone (that are ultimately of no interest to anyone else), the dreams we dream at night that subconsciously colour our performances that day. Life is practice, and sometimes it is dull, marred by rote line readings and generic role playing. But sometimes it is unexpectedly beautiful and brilliant.

Ah well, and riot on.