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Posts Tagged ‘lines’

Dreaming, Acting, Living

Posted by Amanda Gray on June 5, 2011

The most important point to understand about dreams is that all the characters and symbols are aspects of the dreamer. So when I dream about a boy – it’s me, a teacher – it’s me, a house – it’s me, a bear – it’s me, a jewelled necklace – it’s me, etc. If I cast myself as a jewelled necklace, what does the necklace say about me? Am I a sparkly, diamond necklace, or a dull, unpolished necklace? Did I steal the necklace, or was the necklace given to me as a gift? Every aspect of the necklace may be considered, and what I learn will shine light upon the particular fragment of myself that’s showing up as a jewelled necklace.

Dreams that are most common to me are ones where I’m performing in a theatrical play or in a film, or where I’m participating in an acting class. Sometimes I’m trying on costumes, or I’m auditioning for a part, or I’m observing other actors as they perform. Sometimes, in nightmares, I dream that it’s time to go onstage, and I suddenly realize, in terror, that I haven’t learned my lines and I have no idea what to do!

As I discussed my theatrical dream anxieties with my family this morning, we learned that we all have the same dreams, in slightly different forms. My Aunt dreams that she’s in school, but hasn’t prepared for an exam. My Mom dreams that she’s supposed to cook a meal, but doesn’t have any groceries in the fridge. Does everyone have the same complex? Does everyone harbour fears of the same impending disaster?  What do these dreams say about our lives?

Then I started thinking further about life as a play. Like Shakespeare’s “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” Just as a dream at night is a microcosm of our ‘dream of life,’ so a play on a stage is a microcosm of our ‘play of life.’ I thought about how I’ve often judged the characters in the play of life, including myself, or times when I’ve judged the script, or the playwright (God). Then a number of questions arose in my mind:

  • Do I fear that I don’t know my part or my lines?
  • Am I afraid that it’s my fault that I didn’t study my part in advance?
  • Am I afraid to accept the part that was written for me? Am I afraid I’m unworthy of it?
  • Do I fear that the lead in Hamlet is too much responsibility for me?
  • Am I afraid that I’m unsupported by the other actors?
  • Am I afraid that I’ll make a mistake and ruin the whole play?
  • What if others find out I didn’t study my part? What if I’m a total fool in front of the entire audience?
  • Am I trying to control the play and the other characters?

Two of the most mystical experiences of my life happened when I was performing on stage. The first time, I was performing the lead role of Rose in the play “A Shayna Maidle” in theatre school. It was a short run, only 5 or 6 performances, and I realize now that I made the most mistakes on stage ever during that run. It was my habit to memorize my lines immediately, word for word, and so thoroughly that I rarely, if ever, called for a line during rehearsal. Yet, on the first performance of this show, on preview night in front of an audience of critics, I blanked, and had to call for a line. Since the Stage Manager was no longer ‘on book’ – we all had to wait an extraordinary length of time to get back on track. I was so embarrassed! On another night, I broke a ceramic lamp onstage and neglected to address the problem in the moment, by improvising some other way of turning on the light, or by taking the time to clean up. My acting teacher gave me heck after the show. He said that the audience expected me to ‘live’ in the moment of the play, and that I was cheating them if I ignored the moment, in favour of sticking blindly to the script. The mystical moment was when I had an ‘out of body’ experience – I found myself watching the show from the front row of the audience! I came off stage that night and complained to my teacher, “That was my most horrible performance ever!”

“No,” he said, “It was your BEST performance ever.”

“What? I wasn’t even THERE!”

“Yes, that’s exactly why it was so good.”

The second mystical experience was quite similar to the first. This time I was performing a monologue in a ‘contest’ for actors, models and singers. There was a judging panel and a full audience comprised of performers family members. Now that I think back, I remember that I also performed a song, and that the last note of the song was a horrible disaster. I can’t remember if the song preceded the monologue or vice versa, but never the less, about halfway through my 3-minute monologue, I left my body. I hovered high above myself, to the right side, and I became aware of this amazing energy. The energy was flowing out of ‘me’ toward the audience, and then, I could feel it flowing back to ‘me’ from them. I was fascinated with watching this energy flow back and forth. I remember seeing a lady with glasses sit forward in her seat, listening intently, and I remember looking down at my body, still doing its thing while I sojourned like a balloon in mid-air. Next thing I knew, I was finishing the last line of the monologue. I did as I was taught, to ‘throw and keep throwing,’ and then, I bowed my head and took a small step back. Suddenly, to my unbelieving surprise, the audience exploded with applause, cheers and hoots – more than I’d ever heard in my life! Apparently, when I’m not there – the body is an amazing actor!

Performing allowed complete control and safety. I knew the script, I knew the lines, everyone was going to do exactly what I expected them to do, and we were all going to do it the same way over and over, and over again. Within this perfect bubble of certainty, I didn’t feel afraid and could completely relax. I trusted the time and space inside the bubble, and I think that’s what allowed for those mystical out-of-body experiences.

What would it take for me to trust life in the same way? Must I have the same level of control? Must I have a perfect a script for every word I speak, or every action I perform? Do I have to ensure that everyone else is performing the same script? Must I automatically judge the ‘play of life,’ as it is, as inadequate and in need of my help? Do I have to become the playwright (God) as well as the actor? Yes, that is, exactly, what the ego would try to do.

What would happen if I didn’t judge the production? What if I didn’t have to control the play or the other actors? What if I just TRUSTED the playwright (God)? Even if it seems that I don’t know the play, or the lines, or my role, or every other actor’s role, do I really need to know? What if I could surrender my need to know? What if I allowed myself to drop my idea of the script entirely? What if I drop all the ideas of all the characters I would play? Could I simply improvise? And allow others to improvise? Could I allow the play to be written fresh in each moment?

Just as all the characters and symbols in my nightly dreams are aspects of myself, so all the characters and symbols of the play are aspects of myself. The stage – is me, the audience – is me, the candlestick and the mistletoe – is me, the other actor – is me. Is my fellow actor dressed as a Jesus or as an alcoholic? Do I invite him onto my stage to share the spotlight, or do I banish him off into the darkness of the wings? Could we both play the same part? Could we play the part so well, we stop acting? If we stop acting, could we wake up, entirely, from the play?

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