There are lots of lessons from my theater years that help with living in the world, and in Christ.
First, there is the idea of empathy: you figure out how you’d react to whatever the character is going through. It makes you look at people differently. You learn from their struggles while figuring out why the character chose what they chose. Theater helps you see people more deeply and helps figure out their struggles and choices. Empathy helps you understand other people. You’ve walked in their shoes.
One of the lessons of empathy is the second of the lessons of the theater. Everyone is doing the best they can, with what they know, what they’ve been “Carefully Taught,” and how their life experiences have colored many of their beliefs, values and knee jerk reactions. This leads to the knowledge that “there are no villians.” No character or person thinks they are a bad person. People want to be good.
Another wonderful lesson is that Change is the Only Constant. No matter that you say the same lines every night, from the same spot, to the same person; each night is different. I learned that doing “The Owl and the Pussycat” where my co-actor would come in each night and say, “I’m high,” or “I’m drunk,” or “I’m on speed.” There is an old Eastern saying too, about how when you put your foot in a stream, it is not the same stream as when you began, nor when when your foot comes out of the stream. No one moment is the same as any other, just as no one person is the same as any other. The stars are in orbits, tho’ always moving; the seasons are constant but what happens within a season is different from year to year. The spring when you fell in love is different from any other spring, especially from this last one. But they have all been spring. We constantly live in a state of change. Especially now.
Another fun thing I learned in theater is that High Heels came about in the French court of Louis the 14th, for the MEN. They wanted to make their calves more pronounced. Another fashion thing is that Velcro was developed for the quick costume changes sometimes required, especially in period pieces when Zippers wouldn’t fit the costume’s time. Big full skirts are fun to wear. High heels, not so much.
The last thing is perhaps the most important thing: Catharsis. This is what the ancient Greek government discovered during times of foment. When folks felt like starting a revolution, the government would ask a playwrite to write a play about a revolution, in which that revolution was successful and the people at the end were well off. When that play was over, the people in the audience were content and no longer wanted a revolution; they sort of had already had one. That process is Catharsis. It works in our world too, with movies and books. It even works with Scripture. Catharsis.
When we think to feed hungry folks on a large scale and sometimes don’t: it’s been done. It may have been 2000 years ago, but we won’t try. Social Justice issues like women’s rights: that was decided a long time ago, right? Back in the Garden of Eden, when Eve took, from the Serpent, the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. That is why things are the “Way Things Are.” We can find in Scripture something to prove our point and to show “We have always done it that way.” And probably someone else did it better than we ever could: example: Jesus. We have been “Catharsis-ized.”
Most of the lessons of the theater are good, and being on the inside gives one an advantageous perspective on the ways of the world. We can see how folks want to be good, or hope to be good. We can empathize with folks going through difficulty and remember how this or that character rose above similar difficulties. Theater offers a chance to “try on” other people’s thoughts, beliefs and values, and to honor others as Kin, someone we can learn to love and/or understand; someone in our Family. From the inside of theater we practice seeing from other perspectives. When we understand Catharis, it helps us to see “behind the curtain” at what may really be going on in the world. It helps us love one another. It helps us see one another with God’s eyes, to see that God loves each of us unconditionally. Theater is a lot like Church. It’s a Family working together to make a better world. Blessings, Bethany