I studied to be an actor.
In preparing for a role I work through a script and verb my lines.
I ask myself, What is fueling the words I say?
To entice. To defend. To fight. To hold.
As in “To be or not to be? that is the question.” Man is that the question. William Shakespeare understood the struggle humanity has for significance in this life.
The Oxford Dictionary defines the word Be as: to exist or be present.
Existence has become a book bag stuffed full of the 8,166 days I have lived on planet Earth.
Honestly? It has become heavy.
The weight is always with me and I have no clue what all the material my notebooks have jotted down means. My back is stiff. Hunched.
I’ve been reading The Stanislavski System: the Professional Training of an Actor. It’s a compilation of Stanislavski’s teachings broken down by Sonia Moore. Constantin Stanislavski was a Russian thespian that impacted the earliest American acting groups in the 1900s. His teachings came to be called “The Stanislavski Method” (or what you may have heard as “method acting”) and are still widely used in actor training today.
As it often happens when studying the art of storytelling, I read some words that brought together my vocational work and spiritual self.
“Stanislavski demanded that actors thoroughly study the play and the author’s mentality. An actor
must understand the main idea of the play; he must see himself as a part of the whole.”
Good words for an actor working on a play. But those words are also helpful for the human in her journey of existence.
I couldn’t help but think of my role on Earth.
The story I am apart of and am living out right now.
I thought about the Author who has written my existence.
Do I value my Creator’s mentality? Do I even know it? (How would I even begin to know something of such magnitude and significance?)
Do I see myself as part of the whole of some plan?
I want to attack God’s narrative with as much excitement as I would any play.
I want to ingest the story of grace, of earth, of my existence.
I want to dig into our Creator’s intent, His intent for all of creation.
I want to find my place in the narrative of life.
This desire to know my Creator’s intent raises the stakes for my actions.
In theatre, we often ask, How high are the stakes? How badly do I want this “something”?
Knowing my Author’s intent, His main idea, is crucial to how I live out my role here on earth.
Knowing our Author’s intent then leads us to figuring out our individual roles to play. I think of Paul writing to the church gathering in Corinth. He writes, “For the body does not consist of one member but of many” and “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” We are all in this play together, but we have unique, different, and invaluable roles to be.
Communities can get caught up in elevating certain stereotypes of a “follower of Jesus.”
Stereotypes in acting is bad. Stereotypes create dishonesty in a play. Any audience that sees a stereotype is then disconnected. The narrative is hurt.
The same goes in community. We shouldn’t be attempting to fit another model or cliche. If all the characters in a play are fueled buy one main idea, no matter how different each character is played out, the main idea will be accomplished.
An actor does not worry about another actor’s character. She merely focuses on her own character and the motivations behind her character. She focuses on the main idea and her characters part in that idea. This doesn’t mean she ignores or discounts other characters. In fact she does the opposite by being present and listening as hard as she can to the characters she interacts with on stage.
If two characters, each being motivated by the same main idea, are focusing on their own personal role, together they will breathe life into the narrative and point the audience to the playwright’s original main idea.
In a community, we women have gifts of working through the beautiful process of blossoming our personal role and pointing others to the heart of our Creator’s story: the Gospel.
In our interactions, our “verbs” have the possibility of being: To listen. To empathize. To learn.
To push each other to be who we were fearfully and wonderfully created to be.
Let us move away from phony copies, comparisons, or ignorance. Let us encourage each other to make clear our Author’s main idea. Let us encourage each individual role in this incredible narrative.
For the Good of the World
Just a few lines down from that first quote, Sonia Moore also writes,
“The main idea is the spine and pulse of the play, of which the character is a single element; the actor must know his mission in the chain of events of the play, his responsibility to make the main idea live.”
As humans, the greatest good, the spine and pulse of our story, is the Gospel.
That the Creator of all—God—empathized with His Creation (better than any actor) enough to become human. The great Love for the world then took the weight of the world, the weight of darkness, and died on a cross. He didn’t finish there but defeated death for us all by rising to life.
We all come from the same source. Our Creator is unearthly but became earthly to love us.
The verbs “To love” and “To live” become one in the same thing,
for the way we were made To live is To love.
Living the way our good Creator made us to live is loving.
We now have the responsibility to make this great “main idea” live through our community of individuals who have unique roles to play.
And finally Moore hits home again with,
“In the theme of her role, which she must see clearly, every detail, every thought and gesture must be imbued with the light of the main idea of the play.”
To imbue means to inspire or to permeate.
We know the theme of our role. We must use our individual gifts, desires, hurts—and harness those thoughts and gestures to inspire or permeate the beautiful way of the Gospel.
May we encourage the differences in each other.
May we be a community that lives by the main idea of our story.