Tuesday, January 31, 2012

a gossamer glamour

Today I rediscovered why I love theatre.

One of my professors said something today that made me shiver with delight. We were speaking of Roman theatre, the early Christian Church, and in the appearance of women on the stage.
Our professor was speaking about why it was thought licentious for women to appear onstage. And to be perfectly candid, usually I disagree with most of what this professor says. Or he says something flippant I disagree with, but he truly agrees with me. Or he says something flippant that I agree with, and he doesn't. And then sometimes he says something flippant that I'm not sure if even he knows whether he agrees with himself or not. But this time he said something startlingly wonderful. He said, the power of theatre to seduce is unbelievable. People onstage look beautiful and dazzling, and we find ourselves in love with them in spite of ourselves.

And I was completely struck by how true that is. Human beings are so beautiful, and the wonder and magic of theatre is that we can't help but be fascinated by human beings acting out a story in front of us. Even if they aren't doing anything-- just sitting there being human beings. We still can't help but fall in love with them a little bit. And the incredible facet of theatre is its immediacy--you can physically reach out and touch an actor onstage. That is phenomenal and miraculous.

Someone once said that Shakespeare is not realism, but rather, greater than realism. Shakespeare's characters live the way we all truly live. The vibrant spiritual life of human beings isn't relegated to the interior of his characters, rather, their interior life becomes their exterior life. It's heightened, which is a word bandied about a lot concerning Shakespeare, but it truly is. Human beings are raised to the heights that they belong. There's something transcendent about his work. When you're onstage, performing Shakespeare, you feel transcendent. You feel alive, and beautiful, and then you can set about the actor's task of seducing your audience. You woo them with your words, convincing them that your character's story is worth listening to. It's all rather dazzling and exhilarating.

Today was one of those days when I re-discovered why I love theatre.

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