I’ve been on both sides of the stage. Honestly, it’s easier sitting in the audience.
An actress or actor spends weeks rehearsing a playwright’s work – hoping that they understand the author’s meaning and can convey it to those who have come to attend. Sometimes we win and sometimes it seems not.
Anyone who sits down and attempts to express his emotions to an unknown group of people – whether in a novel, a poem or a play exposes himself to the possibility of misunderstanding or, at the worst, irrelevancy. Passion and honesty are fast fading from our world and the artist must wonder whether there is anyone left to hear his message.
There are plays whose truthfulness is as great as when they were originally penned. My three nominees are Shakespeare’s, “King Lear”; Ibsen’s, “Hedda Gabler” and Tennessee Williams’, “The Glass Menagerie”. Perhaps the last of these is my most favorite.
I first read “The Glass Menagerie” in high school as an assignment for an English class. It was many years later that I actually saw it performed. But from the opening moments, I was struck with Williams’ portrayal of the sadly fragile character he had crafted in Laura. I saw some of her in myself.
Here was a woman who lacked self-esteem because of her minor physical impediment. That handicap shaped her view of how the world regarded her, whether she would ever find anyone to look beyond it and to be able to love her. Laura decided not to expose herself to the risk of being rejected, binding herself instead to her non-judgmental collection of glass animals.
The fact that Williams centered Laura’s collection around a unicorn endeared him to me for his sensitivity and his prescience. As we know, the unicorn is a creature of myth – but it is a delicate and inspiring one.
Despite our modern technology and social networks and our ability to connect with so many people, I often wonder if these venues are not mere disguises for our innate longing to find a common ground with our fellow humans on a much deeper and more meaningful level. Or have we devolved to the point that occupying ourselves with “just doing stuff” with people whom I would characterize as acquaintances is sufficient to meet our emotional needs?
Do we still have the capacity to feel and to offer our love to another – or has this emotion passed from our vocabulary and our hearts?
If the Bard was right and, “All the world’s a stage,” then we are inextricably caught up in the production as cast members. The question is, can we bring the sincerity of emotion to our performance to make our portrayal one that is meaningful to our fellow players?