“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 ages.”
In hindsight, it’s easy to see the rise and falls in the plot of my life, but in the present time I don’t always know where on the roller coaster I am at any given moment. Am I heading up or coasting down? One of the best things for me to step back from the every day and view my life “big picture” is to go to the theater. There is something about watching actors portray the human condition that allows me to appreciate the challenges the characters have, the growth they must go through, and the results of the struggle in a way that I can relate and draw comparisons to in my own life.
There are many layers at a show that help me gain perspective. First, the struggle of the actors themselves. I love to peruse the biographies of the performers in the programs. It brings me empathy to understand the challenges of working in the world of theater. You can see their past performances and think about their career trajectories. Is tonight’s role part of their upward climb to stardom or a horizontal “holding space” until something better comes along? Which actor is having their first solo? or first leading part? I often envision what my single paragraph biography would read and how I want it to read in the future. Watching someone play a lead role and then reading of the many, many small roles they have played previously reminds me that every opportunity in life lays another building block into the construction of who I want to be.
And then there are the characters in the shows. They can come alive for you and help you understand new and different experiences. You might laugh with one character as you see his struggle while crying along with another. My heart is touched by the variety of new ideas, situations, perspectives, and paradigms that I am exposed to and I leave thinking about how the lessons portrayed in the plays can apply to me.
Find a local community theater, go big and subscribe to the touring broadway seasons, or attend a film festival. My suggestion is to subscribe for a season and attend every show in the series — not just the ones you “know” you’ll like, but allow yourself the variety that has been curated by someone else. There is a lot to learn from different sources.
I have rises in conflict and resolutions both comedic and tragic in my own life and learning to view them as part of a larger narrative brings me peace and comfort as time passes.
What shows, plays, and movies have given you new perspectives on life? Help me curate a list of things that are lovely and of good report in the comments for everyone’s benefit.
I attended the first English performance of: “The Count of Monte Christo” in January. In it the main character is betrayed and spends 16 years in a wretched prison. My sister commented that it is like my life. I was interested to learn that it is based on a true story. I have been betrayed and destroyed in severe and intimate ways by people that pretended to be my friends back when I was well off. Now I have almost nothing, but I am fascinated to see the Law of the Harvest. God promised that we will eat the fruits of our labors. I praise God for every small miracle… for example, the miracle of a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. If I leave this world with ownership of my own soul, happy day. The theater is cathartic for me & allows my soul to release tension and the energy of extreme injustice.
Thanks for this topic.
I did not know there was a play! I love that book and “tolerated” the movie — The firt season of the TV show revenge plays out a lot like the book, and I LOVED it. The 2nd and 3rd seasons were not the greatest . . . I’m gonna go search playhouses to find it!!!
There is a “best” movie ever made. Over the years I’ve seen it many times. Tears still moisten my eyes at each viewing. The Night of the Iguana. Check it out.
A couple Dehlin favorites for theater would be Les Miserables and Wicked. As for movies, About Time is beautiful. Life is Beautiful. Bella. What a great way to think about our journeys, Jamie.
I loved Philomena, The Sessions, Lars and The New Girl – I love movies that are filled with kindness, insight and unique perspectives. I also appreciate movies that take me into new cultures and experiences like Osama, Spring Summer Autumn Winter Spring, Babette’s feast and an all time favorite Antonia’s Line. One that really touched me was A Price Above Rubies. Though the main character was very different from me – she was also the same and I felt her journey on a personal and visceral level. Thanks for this article.