Casablanca - When I was asked five years ago, “What is theater for you,” my response was sharply reductionist.
Casablanca – When I was asked five years ago, “What is theater for you,” my response was sharply reductionist.
I used to contract the multitudinous dimensions of such prodigious universes as that of theater in a diminutive definition: “It is where actors perform something on a theatrical stage for an audience.” Subsequently, I was told that one has to cross the illusive frontier separating the inanimate world of the spectator and wear the skin of the performer to visualize the dissimulated and uncharted dimensions of theater. But was I ready, or, to be candid, was I made for theater?
“No one is made for theater…Theater is made for everyone!”
Months ago, I had my first role in a play! After days and days of rehearsal, the awaited day of the performance finally came. I slowly escalated the few stairs bridging the “ground zero” to where “magic happens”: the stage. Once there, as I was performing my role among the other actors, I couldn’t help observing how the audience remained silent and motionless at times, rigorously listening and gazing at us, and following our steps and scrutinizing our costumes. I also observed how they reacted to our utterances and to our movements, clapping their hands from time to time for a well-said line, for a humorous statement or for a heroic scene. I literally felt like the center of the world! Everything I said was heard and reacted to. I was given a “voice!”
Whether or not you are made for theater is not the question. Making a birthday chocolate cake does not require you to be endowed with talent, does it? So is theater! What could relate the two situations? Well, you need creativity in both situations. With creativity, you can make the tastiest birthday cake your child’s friends have ever tasted. Similarly, with creativity you can have spectators giving you a standing ovation for an outstanding and sincere performance you shared with them. No talent is required to do theater. If you ever meet a person that claims having a list of criteria that you are uncompromisingly compelled to meet to practice theater, then that person must be mistaking theater for a “recruitment agency.”
“Theater is not a stage behind a curtain!”
Theater is not limited to performance. It is not only what you say or how you say it. Some think that what you do in theater “stays in theater.” They encapsulate theater in a jar of movements, a bunch of memorized or improvised lines and maybe some background music or noise that constitute a performance on stage, and whose truth evanesces as this performance touches its end. Well that is a very mediocre hand-drawn illustration of what theater is! What most people don’t realize is that theater is their “second role in life.” It is their opportunity to take a break from what they have been doing since they came to life, and embark on a new venture, a new life plot, wherein the occurrences depend on one’s creativity. Theater happens in a theater, but its effect accompanies you wherever you go, and sometimes till the last day of your life.
“Theater gives you a voice, a meaning, a cause!”
Theater gives you a voice. At times, you wave your hand at people your entire life in a desperate bid to get their attention and get them to listen to you, but in vain. Do you know why? Well it’s because your voice lacks the “unusual,” the “creative” and the “sincere.” If you are experiencing such unbearable dismay, then theater is your resort. Forget about talent; just have something to say, a creative way to say it and a cause behind it. Theater then will give you the “voice” you need to get people’s attention, and the legitimacy to say it without having to worry about the aftermath of your utterances or movements.
Theater gives meaning to the apparently meaningless. If you are now in a room while reading this article, try to identify an object of which you can unhesitatingly get rid at any moment, without any sort of regret afterwards. Did you find it? Well, look at it now! If you get rid of that thing, theater can adopt it, give it a meaning, give it a “life,” then give it a “cause” that you might need yourself. In theater, everything has significance, from a 1998 newspaper to a worn out shoe you pass by while on your way home. They are all given a “voice.” They all have something to say or serve, but maybe they couldn’t say it in your actual world, but once displaced to the world of theater, they start existing for a reason. They even help other “things” or “people,” on the other dimension (that of the spectator), to exist in turn.
Theater gave me a voice. Can the inanimate get a voice, too?
Imagine for example that you are a very important and eminent figure that has to travel to a foreign country to attend a meeting of incontestable importance. The only problem is that on the day of the flight, you find out that you forgot your passport at home and that it is too late to go all the way back to fetch it – and you really don’t want to miss that flight! No matter how important of an individual you are, you will not transcend the importance of your passport – you are not going anywhere without it. Yes, it’s nothing merely a ‘thing’, but it can turn your life upside down! Similarly, in theater, the object, or the inanimate, has a significance that transcends the one it is given in the actual world. You and the inanimate make one voice, corporal be it or vocal, and share the same cause, be it gender equality, human rights or anti-violence. You both entertain, affect and change people – you are both vital!
The object is given a voice too!
So what is theater for you, now?
For me, theater is a utopia, and an alternative world, where everyone and everything has a voice, and where everyone has to listen to it. It is the world of absolute sense; even the absurd makes sense, and that is what is referred to as the “theater of the absurd.” Even silence oxymoronically earns a voice, and that is the world of the “mime,” in which movements speak louder than words.
In theater, the victim, the oppressed, the lonely, the marginalized, the disabled, the child and the criminal all get a voice. If you are a citizen longing for freedom but are ignored when arrogating it, theater projects your voice and forces the world to listen to it. If you are a reject in your society, where you were labeled useless, theater becomes your home. It alleviates you. It glorifies you. If you are a child whose voice is not loud enough to reach adults’ busy and distracted ears, theater forces them to listen to you and to answer your questions inescapably. Performers change on stage, and spectators change while witnessing this change.