Thought for the day

Have you considered the conceptual/philosophical distinction between acting and living, the difference between a stage and the reality of the life we live, other than the superficial considerations of a scene prepared for a specific purpose as opposed to a world as a “given”? For an actor can never act, nor a life be lived, before first understanding the underlying conceptual distinction between the two. For, consider the following: An actor, to be a truly ‘great’ actor, must assume the character of the one he acts, and in the very act of assuming that character, he lives, breathes, and assumes such a character. The fact that such a life is lived only for a specified span, at a given time, within the confines of a given area, does not distinguish that scene or act as any different from a life lived within a specified span, at a given historical time, within the confines of a greater geographical area.

Is this what Shakespeare meant when he wrote “As You Like It,” with Jaques stating, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven stages,” and he goes on to describe each such stage. But it is a play which clearly distinguishes between reality and the stage; for Shakespeare is brilliant in at once clouding the distinction while separating it starkly — for in this great play there is no incest, no deaths, and the only blood spilled has a distanced, fairy-tale quality; it is a play which stresses words above action and matter above words; with a character (Rosalind) who must stop play-acting at some point and reveal herself to Orlando in her own person; and Jaques ends his brilliant speech with the stark reality of old age: “Last scene of all, That ends this strange eventful history, Is second childishness, and mere oblivion, Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every thing.” The reality of sickness, old age, disease, and loss of physical health — all point to the distinction between the stage of acting and the stage of life. Truly, actors must always read Shakespeare, because he epitomizes the combining of life upon a stage — the tragedies, the comedies, the conversations both common and philosophical; with the stage which reflects the philosophical underpinnings of the world around us.

The reason why we have “mere actors” today — in movies, on T.V., and in most plays (exempting, of course, Mr. Stoppard) — is because few read Shakespeare anymore; and fewer still read him with the passionate love that is demanded. Shakespeare brings reality — beyond the mere commonplace — to the stage; projecting the ideas, the historical significance, the unchanging concerns of human tragedies and comedies, upon a world which either ignores or no longer understands such greatness upon the stage. Shakespeare embodies all that Western Civilization has to offer in the embracing of ideas, words, human stories, and historical events. Why did this happen? Because Truth is no longer revered; Shakespeare revered Truth, because he revered language which expressed such Truth.

Further, a person can truly act only if he understands how the world is a stage, and how the stage is a reflection of the world — while at the same time understanding the profound difference between the two.

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