90. Thespians

Last week, I tried to speak for non-thespians. I’m not a non-thespian. I’ve worked with many children who’ve shared my love for drama, and I think I can write with more confidence about what’s going on for us when we rehearse and perform.
When we do things well, we like to be appreciated. Sometimes all we want is for someone to acknowledge what we’ve done, and maybe smile, or say, “Thanks.” But sometimes, for some of us, we want a little more. We want hundreds – maybe thousands of fans to stand up and applaud. When the curtain closes, we want them to keep applauding, and shout , “Encore!” It’s along the same lines as the smile and thanks, but to those of us who want it, it sometimes does the job better.
Microbiologists and accountants tend not to get those thunderous accolades. But I think most of them don’t consider applause a high priority. If they do, maybe they moonlight in community theatre. And some people would love to get the applause, but not if it means they have to stand on stage and be noticed.
Enjoying recognition is only one of the reasons for enjoying acting. In our everyday lives, we usually settle into fairly consistent personalities. To do this, sometimes we conceal some of our selves. Part of growing up is learning not to express everything we think and feel as we think and feel it. When we play roles on stage (or off stage), we try on ways of behaving, speaking, moving, and relating that may teach us and others about ourselves. There is more to everyone than we necessarily see.
It’s hard for some non-thespians to see us as anything more than narcissistic show-offs. Many of the plays and movies about actors highlight their neuroses. We get bad press. The children who have theatre in their blood, though taking curtain calls and getting flowers, also sometimes have to put up with the down side of publicity, and it hurts.
I think all children should have opportunities to try out acting, both on stage and off. The shyest children I’ve known have liked pretending as long as they didn’t have to do it in public. Try this line of thinking (just taste it; you don’t have to swallow the whole thing): when we are children, we pretend to be grown-ups. As we grow, we get better and better at pretending to be grown-ups. Finally, when we get so good at it that we believe ourselves, we’re grown-ups.

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