Since life’s a stage and all that, and we’re all dramatis personae…
I enter the auditorium through the back door. Dimly lit alleyways leading to the Green Room. Where we, all actors on this great stage, change into our roles, prepare for the gallery.
The Makeup Artist is waiting, as is my costume. Dialogues memorized, moves rehearsed, I put on the first set of clothes. There are a couple of changes, a few props, all kept ready. Paint is dabbed on my face, to accentuate expressions I have been asked to wear. It’s a part I’m playing, I remind myself. It’s not me as I am. But to put in a good performance, I need to get into the skin of each of my characters. The Director, famous man that he is, is shouting last minute instructions to us.
It’s a multiple role I’m assaying. At various times it’s high drama, there’s action, elements of tragedy and there’s comic relief, interacting with different performers in different scenes. How I got up here, I’m not sure. I didn’t even audition. But I’ve practiced hard to perfect every expression, every move, every nuance. I was nervous at the Premiere. But now, the stage is my world. And tonight – like every other night – is the big night.
I’m not the lead, more a bit player with a few powerful lines. On cue, I periodically enter through the wings, have two minutes on centrestage under the spotlight and then retreat back into being the supporting cast. No fanfare, no drumroll. Yes, the name in big letters is someone else’s, in the credits I’m somewhere down the middle, the main man is the box office draw. But I’m a professional, I enact what I’m expected to, day in and day out. Mouth my piece, exaggerate a few flourishes and exit left of stage.
Let me not undermine myself – the entire theatrical experience is a culmination of all parts coming together, isn’t it? The script, as written by someone who as yet doesn’t know who will enact it out on stage. The Director, who brings his vision to production. The lead actors, the support cast, the technicians, the crew, all the guys behind the scenes, the entire production unit…
The theatre is packed, the crowds come in like every other night. It’s a performance they come to see. An escape from their own reality, enacted by actors who play someone other than themselves! So we put on a show. In front of people we can’t really see but who have paid to see us.
The final scene is played out, the climax, things always end on a high. The lights go out, the curtain falls. And they applaud. A standing ovation. The cast takes a collective bow. And exits together, into the darkness of the backstage. Where the masks, the make up, the make believe are peeled off. While the audience disperses, heading for coffee to critique what they’ve just seen and enjoyed.
The next day, I look forward to the review in the papers. Have I been noticed, have I been panned? Thespians that we all are in real life, acclaim is what we live for.
The stage is set again. I prepare myself for the evening’s encore in the theatre of life.