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.

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