Everything is Theatre?

“Everything is theatre”. It is a refrain we have heard again and again throughout this course. At first it was a statement I found difficult to accept. Yes many things involve a performative act, but do all things have the carefully calculated finesse that is theatre?

While I still find the statement slightly cynical, I have come to realize we do each play a part in the bigger story that is the world.

And it is the world itself that provides the various stages on which we must act.

In London, I felt the above to be most true when we entered Southwark cathedral. The grandeur of the inside was designed to impress. Like those elaborate theatres of the West End, that claim society appreciates the arts, this building acts to say our society appreciates and decorates morality.

The scene is set by a lavish altar and intricate architecture. After a few moments of appreciation, the minister grabs our attention from this altar. He demands an audience and we are not able to refuse him in his placement of power. We are guests (though we did not buy a ticket) and we must watch this performance.

After he began to speak, however, it quickly became evident to me that we were not spectators but actors ourselves. We were part of this grandiose play of morality, and I had forgotten my lines.

We were told to sit down, and as we proceeded to sit or kneel we all agreed to participate in this production. As the minister spoke a prayer, I felt incredibly uncomfortable. This was not a play in which I was meant to have a part. Why had I agreed to take part in it? How had I become an actor when I had only intended to be a spectator? Why did I think there would be a divide between actor and spectator in such an immersive intimate space anyway?

Ultimately, I chose to stage myself out of sight of the alter as the man spoke. I sat, I did not kneel. I kept my eyes open and did not move my mouth or say “amen”. If I was being watched in a production all these signs would tell you how I felt about the proceedings.

Finally, the minister at the altar told us all to “say a prayer together in our own tongues”. At this moment I was the actor who had forgotten all her lines and he was a stage manager putting the words into my mouth. As everyone around me recited the Lord’s Prayer, I tried to remember my lines but could not recite the lines I never knew.

As we continued around the city, to Westminster that same day and to St. Paul’s a bit later, I saw how the marvellous buildings performed. How they created awe, inspired a sense of belonging, and shaped the performance of people as they act out their lives.

In the end, we are all acting an identity everyday, whether it’s true or not true. As such, we must remember to be aware of our surroundings and analyze our journeys as we would a piece of theatre. For in this we can find the hidden meanings, the hypocrisy, and the truth that otherwise evade us and leave us without a spotlight.

Never forget “all the world’s a stage and all the people merely players”.

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My Road to Destination Theatre

Theatre never seems to end up in my life on purpose, and the Destination theatre course was no different. It is not that I avoid theatre, more that it always appears where I am least expecting it. When I first toured my high school back in grade eight for instance, I did not expect to be convinced in a few short sentences that drama was the art course to take and I certainly did not expect that theatre would become a mainstay of my high school career. However, after a phone call home and being paged to the drama office twice, I knew I could not escape theatre- but then again why would I ever want to do so?

Skip forward five years from the day my drama teacher told me I would be crazy not to sign up for grade ten acting class. I am sitting in my room, checking my Western school email for no particular reason. Sitting in my in box is a message from the English department. I always wonder why, as a science student, I am constantly getting emails from the English department, but nonetheless I decide to read the email before deleting it.

“Students in Theatre Studies 3900G will explore the performance culture of a contemporary world city in a hands-on, intensive way”, reads the first line. Having spent the summer writing a play I do not know what to do with, theatre studies caught my eye and I continued reading. After several minutes of imagining myself immersed in theatre at the Globe and marvelling at the sites of London, I turned off my phone. I knew I could not take the course. My schedule was full, I was too busy, and theatre was not even close to my educational focus. Yet, for whatever reason I did not delete the email.

In September school continued as usual and it was not until November that Destination theatre would return to my mind. I am not a social media person, and as such my mom has taken to sending me anything she sees on Twitter that she thinks might be relevant. So one Saturday afternoon, when I was at the mall with my friend Faith, my phone buzzes and a link to the destination theatre page appears. I would have probably ignored it but Faith asked me what it was, and so I told her about the email from the summer.

Thus with the words “We should so do it”, the two of us were enrolled in the course within a week. Theatre had once again found its way back to me, even as I sought to evade it. Finally, now that I am here I could not be more excited!

As I mentioned, I spent the summer writing a play, for no reason other than I had an idea and thought I could do it. As I participate in this course I know I will gather invaluable information for making my play better and perhaps I will even find an avenue to put it on a stage one day. I love that theatre is something that always comes to me through spontaneous action. I always fear not being prepared for every contingency. There is something about theatre, however, that sets me free from this inflexibility, something about knowing the script but also knowing that improvisation is always an option. While I worry that I may have to face the homesickness that often seems to plague me and I know I will worry about everything coming together ‘perfectly’, I hope this mindset allows me to let go of these worries and enjoy England as it comes. I do not know what England has in store for me, but I do know it is an adventure that I will never forget, and one that will, in whatever small or large way, shape the rest of my life.