“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.