Sunday, February 23, 2014

"All the world's a stage"

"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, his acts being seven ages," said the famous playwright, William Shakespeare.

I like this quote because it makes the connection between real life and the theatre. The theatre is a place to fabricate reality. It is a place where you can role play situations without consequences. Even within the confinements of the script, there is a remarkable freedom that comes with being someone you're not. Theatre is filled with these strange paradoxes, which fuel the theatre's intense conflicts.

At the end of every school year, our teachers ask us to reflect on our work over the past year, and make goals for the next year. This year, I decided that in addition to improving my own craft–both in writing and acting–I wanted to reach out and share what I love with others.

For those of you who have followed my blog, you may remember some previous posts talking about my volunteer work at an assisted living home. When I visited the assisted living home in previous years, I sat with the residents at dinner and talked, and sometimes visited them in their room. I wanted to be able to give them something, though. I wanted to be able to share with them what has been my ultimate outlet of expression throughout high school: theatre.

Compiling all I had learned from my directors and the books I had read, I compiled a 12-week theatre workshop subtitled: "All the world's a stage." I chose this quote not only because it is from one of the greatest playwrights of all time, but because it emphasizes the point that everyone is an actor-–we've been acting our entire lives. It puts everyone on equal playing grounds, regardless of their experience on the stage. Every week focuses on a different aspect of theatre, starting with monologue work by exploring the tools we have at our disposal as actors (voice, emotion, movement), working up to dialogue and experimenting how to work with others to perform a scene, and finally concluding in a small performance. My hope is that these sessions become a place where the residents, too, can express themselves.

This week was my second week. It was titled: Voice, Emotion & Characterization. Through a variety of activities, we explored how to use our voice and body language to embody different characters and convey different emotions. We had a grand total of seven people–three more than last week–and everyone stayed the entire time. It went much smoother than the first week. The first week was a lot of talking and about half the people left midway, which was a bit disheartening. I wasn't as prepared the first week. It was a busy weekend, so I didn't have time to review my notes beforehand. I hadn't thought about the fact that some of the residents wouldn't be able to stand up for the activities. I was unsure how to address everyone. I was nervous––I've never done anything like this before.

This week I felt much more prepared. I was able to laugh with the residents. Although I am technically the instructor, I have so much to learn from them. One resident attended a drama school that isn't even around anymore. She plays the accordion and traveled the world singing. Another resident used to sing in a barber shop quartet. He wears these great suspenders with musical notes on them.

There are centuries of actors, playwrights and directors to go to for inspiration. Sometimes I forget that there are people even closer for inspiration: those in my everyday life. I'm so excited to see what these residents bring to the table––or should I say, the stage.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Outside the Heart-Shaped Picture Frame

I believe Valentine's Day is intended for two groups of people: lovers and children under the age of ten. For the lovers, it is an excuse to buy each other chocolate and flowers and write romantic love notes. For children under the age of ten, it is an excuse to eat lots of candy (although apparently now schools don't allow candy valentines for their class parties due to health rules) and perhaps get a valentine from your elementary crush (I still have the Fun-Dip from my third grade sweetheart stapled into my journal). 

For everyone else, it is just another ordinary day, filled with some chocolate and lots of cute couples to be envious of. Maybe envious is too strong of a word. Jealous? 

But when I think of the girls walking around with roses from their admirer, or who have their hair curled for a Valentine's Day date, envy is a word that comes to mind. Because their day fits that heart-shaped picture frame. They have a reason to celebrate Valentine's Day, and it's hard not to feel a little left out. "If only someone would offer me a chocolate or a cookie," I thought at lunch, and then laughed at myself for being melodramatic. I've been spending too much time on the stage. 

I have to remind myself that everything I have ever tried to fit in a picture frame has ended in disappointment. Shouldn't I know by now that the best things are often outside the frame I molded? The best things are often the ones I didn't plan? I'll remember next year (or the year after that). 

Regardless of the fact that I wasn't visited by Cupid on this particular Valentine's Day, I found other reasons to celebrate, and upon reflecting back, it wasn't as bad as I first made it out to be. 

The morning began with a two-hour delay and a Valentine's Day-themed breakfast. Heart-shaped raspberry chocolate chip waffles, whipped cream, and strawberries cut in the shape of a heart. I think we only use these heart-shaped plates once a year, but they're great for that one time.

Also, a blend of french vanilla and strawberry-banana yogurt, topped with a strawberry heart and speckled with chia seeds. 

Then, instead of a hot Valentine's Day date, I babysat for my director. Which in hindsight, ended up being the best way I could have spent my Valentine's Day night. Like I said, Valentine's Day is meant for two groups of people: lovers and children under the age of ten. My director's daughter (she's six) and I had a Valentine's Day-themed dinner: peanut butter and fluff sandwiches cut in the shape of a heart (fluff died pink with Hershey's strawberry syrup); heart-shaped strawberries and kiwi; and strawberry milk. 

Then we made valentines and played charades.

Maybe next year I'll have a valentine, but in the meantime, I'll stick with my heart-shaped waffles, strawberry milk and babysitting. (And by the way, the heart-shaped peanut butter and fluff picture frame was delicious...especially with the toasted bread.) 

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!