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Theatre in Life

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Theatre in Life   ::   Living Theatre   ::   Performance   ::   Activities

Theatre in Life

Part I

Of course, it was Shakespeare who said, “all the world’s a stage...” and by golly, he was right! We are always performing. We use a different set of communication strategies when we speak to our mom than we do when we speak to our boyfriend or girlfriend, for instance (well let’s hope so anyway!). We aren't lying. We aren’t pretending (hopefully). We are simply bringing out that part of our personality, along with the ways that personality speaks and behaves, for a particular situation or person. Fundamentally, that is all that acting is, but actors do it on a stage in a theatre in front of total strangers, and for some bizarre reason they enjoy it. And whether you are an actor or just a person who interacts with others (an " inter-acter"), you are in your heart of hearts a performer.

Activity
Theatre in Life #1

In two or three sentences, describe how you communicate differently with a parent as opposed to a friend. Why are there differences? Are you "performing"? Are you "acting"? Why or why not?

Part II:

But alas! Not all of our performances are good or for the right reasons. Robbing a bank requires performance. So does beating a child. These are not considered "good" performances or actions in most societies. Luckily, one nifty thing that you can do is alter the performances you do in your life. You can rewrite the script! While this is not really a self-help course in psychology, if you think of your everyday interactions as performances, this can help you more easily change the scripts or texts of the performance. And we all want to do that. Don’t we?

Imagine that you are a father or mother with a bunch of snivelling little ones all around you. It has been a rough day, and your kids keep complaining and whining about this and that. You keep having to wipe their noses and clean up their messes and change their diapers, and finally one of your kids let’s you have it. They scream at you about how unfair it is to have to set the table of all things; it’s awful, their life is a tragedy for all the world to see, Hamlet didn’t have it so bad! And that’s it. That is it. You’ve had it. And your normal (performative) choice (or text/ script) is to yell and scream and send them to their room without supper and ground them until they are 52 years old.

However, since this can be seen as a performance (and some performances takes practice!), you have other “performative" choices you can make (and choices are what actors—and interacters—make all the time, by the way).

Activity
Theatre in Life #2

In a sentence or two, describe what other, socially and culturally “ better” performance choices might be made with your child if you were in the situation described above. It is true that some of these performances may be difficult and some may require some “practice,” but go ahead and make some better choices. Remember: deep down you are an actor—which parts of your personality will you bring out for this situation? What will your script or text be? How much work will it take to change this script?

Part III:

There are many other examples of how we can change our scripts: an alcoholic changes her life by writing a new script that does not contain booze. A compulsive liar changes his life by, perhaps, just shutting up. There are lots of examples. When they are viewed as performances that need changing, change can more easily come.

Homework:
Now's your chance! Find a performance in your life that needs changing. And work on changing it. If you have a personal journal or diary, keep track of your progress.

Part IV:

Community Performance and Ritual Performance
You are a performer in other ways, too. Think of the clubs to which you belong, or your church or family. Societies like these always have performances in their cultures that allow members to review and/or celebrate community paradigms or world-views. These performances are called rituals.

Rituals are difficult to define, partly because we do many things that we may call "rituals" but that really aren't. Rituals are repetetive. Rituals are always performances. Rituals always allude in some way to the society to which they belong. Brushing your teeth, for example, is certainly repetitive, but it is not usually a performance, and it does not usually allude to the society to which you belong. While we may call brushing teeth ritualistic , it is NOT a ritual. Rituals are easy to see in our churches, though, and in our civic life. Baptisms, the partaking of the sacrament or eucharist and other rituals can easily be reviewed. Other rituals that surround us are events like weddings and graduation ceremonies. These are performances, too, and involve scripts, costumes, repetition, actors, and they always allude to society. They also take place in a space that has usually been altered or chosen for its conduciveness to that ritual. Scripts, costumes, scenic design, and acting are all elements of performance that can, and often do, become artistic, because rituals nearly always work better when some artistic qualities are present. Other rituals and ceremonies include parties of various kinds (birthday, community, formal friends' parties, etc.), town celebrations, family reunions, and more!

Part V:

Rituals are usually repetitive and they have allusion or symbol that reminds participants of the beliefs of the society conducting them. So while brushing your teeth may be repetitive, it usually does not instill ethics or morals, nor does it allude symbolically to cultural beliefs (though I suppose some could make a case that it does).

Essentially, rituals do at least one, or usually a few, of the following:

  1. Rituals deal with membership: they can make individuals members of a society or alter membership in some way. They can also remove membership. Think about initiation ceremonies here.
  2. Rituals allow members to renew or energize relationships with each other. Conversely, they can also sever relationships.
  3. Rituals can be conducted when beliefs need to be negotiated or changed.
  4. Celebrating or restating community-held beliefs is nearly always a function of rituals.

Activity
Theatre in Life #5

With a short paragraph, briefly describe a ritual that you have experienced or watched. Describe the arts of theatre involved including: acting (special ways of behaving), language (or script/text), the space in which it takes place, costumes, and special effects. Also indicate which of the preceding functions of ritual are involved. Please make sure you include all items!

Part VI:

Rituals also contain as part of their structures a special time in which the affective, important elements actually take place. This " liminal space” is a special threshold ( limen means between) through which the participants go and emerge differently on the other side. At a church baptism, for instance, the candidate is just a candidate, but once baptized, their membership status within that society changes: they are now a member. Some bizarre but significant things happen during this liminal space. First, the society conducting the ritual is, in appearance, taken apart. Think about this: if the President of the United States came to your wedding, who would be the most important person at the wedding? You (and your partner), of course. The President’s normal capacity in society is diminished, if only for a moment. The most important people in any ritual are those that move the ritual forward. In essence, society is dismantled during a ritual, and then put back together again when the ritual is over. When it is put back together again, it is even stronger than before (“new and improved! ”), since the participants have all been subjected to special language and actions that celebrate the ideals and paradigms of their culture.

Copyright 2008, David Sidwell. Cite/attribute Resource . admin. (2005, October 05). Theatre in Life. Retrieved January 08, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: http://ocw.usu.edu/Theatre_Arts/Understanding_Theatre/Theatre_in_Life_1.html. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License