Whether you are an actor or not, I truly believe there's a wealth of wisdom that we can learn from the theatre that we can then use offstage in our daily lives. Over the next week or so, I'll be running a little blog series on life lessons I've learned from the stage. Each day I'll share a new lesson or realization I've had during this production that is giving me food for thought on how to approach my offstage life. I hope you'll join me as I reflect on some of these ideas and insights, and that you might find one or two of them that you connect to as well!
Keep reading after the photo for the first post...
When I found out I was cast in this play, I wanted to clear my schedule completely for the next seven weeks, eliminating all emotional baggage, physical limitations, and stress of any kind. I wanted to work on this show entirely free of any anxiety, pain, frustration, and sadness in order to focus and really do my best. Are you laughing out loud yet?
Because it's impossible for anyone to wipe their emotional and physical slate clean at the wave of a wand, I did the only thing I could do. I chose to show up every night as me, complete with the range of emotions that we all feel-- joy, pain, fear, wonder, and anger. It felt like I was pushing an invisible luggage rack that groaned under the weight of my thirty plus years of life baggage, and wheeling it into the lobby. But once I reached the door to the theatre space itself, I reluctantly shoved the luggage rack into the corner of the lobby. As tough as it was, I tried night after night to leave these things at the door of the theatre. Don't worry, I told myself, they'll be right here waiting for you when you're done. And they were.
The only prospect that was harder for me than letting go of my baggage for the evening was the thought of letting it come with me and detract from the deep sense of joy I get from acting or let it affect how I work with my fellow actors. Can you imagine rehearsing a scene with a fellow actor and lashing out at them when they miss their entrance just because you had an argument with a friend over the weekend?
We can't magically banish all our stress, hurt, and worries when we walk into the theatre, but we can decide not to let these feelings control our experience while we're there. This idea could also apply to how we approach time in our homes, workplaces, subways, and grocery stores.
Without fear, pain, disappointment, sadness, and longing, how would I ever hope to emotionally connect to a character who also feels these things? It would be boring to watch a play that has only squeaky clean, happy moments and no conflict.
Once you start to look at your own scars and triumphs offstage in this way, you realize that these qualities are no longer as ugly as you first thought, but they are in fact beautiful and universal. What if we tried to see these feelings as invitations to make connections and cultivate compassion? I am still not sure how to do this in the non-theatrical part of my life, but am convinced that it's a worthwhile cause to see how I might try to learn.
Coming up tomorrow is Life Lesson #2: Everyone Matters. As always, leave me a comment below if you want to chime in with any thoughts!