Posted by: Leigh Reynolds | May 17, 2011

All the World’s a Stage

When I was growing up I always wanted to act. Well, more perform, I guess, but you get the idea. I went to Catholic school and there just wasn’t funding for the arts, so outside of a small choir program (mostly hymns for church), there wasn’t much. I’d put on plays in my head and emote in the mirror. Once in grade school we had this idea to stage The Wizard of Oz over recess. I was a flying monkey.

When I got into college, I got into Rock Chalk Review. (A student run variety show that was a benefit for the United Way.) My dad used to say RCR was my real major, and in many ways he was right! I got to perform a little, but I directed more. When I graduated and moved to KC, my boyfriend and friends were active in community theatre, so I was too, on the fringe. Finally I got the nerve and auditioned for Martin City Melodrama & Vaudeville Co. and – miracle of miracles – I made it. And I have never been the same since. I LOVED to sing and dance and perform on that stage.

In between melodramas I decided to audition for a friend directing “Jake’s Women”. This was a play, with some drama to it. I had never done anything like it (I was much more the vaudevillian type!) and I wasn’t sure I would be any good, but I got cast. I will always treasure that experience.

The main character – Jake – is a playwrite and he is always scripting out scenes for his life. Reality and fantasy begin to run together. There was one scene in particular where my character – his daughter – is having a conversation with her deceased mother. It is very touching, very raw, and full of emotion. At first, it was foreign and choppy; someone else’s words, blocking assigned to me by the director. I was reading a line from a script I held in my hand and trying to remember where to walk and stand as told. As rehearsals progressed, I got things memorized and eventually could put down the script and walk with more ease. But it was still all stuff someone else assigned; like walking around in someone else’s shoes that don’t fit … You can get across the room, but it isn’t very comfortable.

Somewhere along the way, thankfully before opening night, it changed. I went from memorized words and blocking to a place where I forgot again. The scenes progressed like they were a part of my life. I forgot I was acting and I just was. Every night I ran off the stage crying, feeling – really feeling – like I had just talked to my mom, who had died, telling her how much I missed her and needed her here. I wasn’t acting anymore. In that moment, I was in that moment, living it.

I think that’s how life can work too, if we let it. Every day we have a chance to write our own script. In a negative situation? Write a new script where you focus on the positive blessings in your life. Trying to let go of an old, destructive habit? Write a new scene for your life, where you do the right thing.

At first it may seem choppy and forced, like you are reading a script that is foreign to you and following someone else’s blocking. You’ll likely need a daily reminder – like I had to carry my script with my blocking scribbled in the margin. But stick with it. Eventually it will come more easily. Eventually you’ll get it memorized. Eventually you’ll go beyond memorization and forget it again. You’ll react the way you want to, be the way you want to be, feel how you wished you felt, and it will come without effort. It’ll just be.

All too often we want it in an instant. We make a new year’s resolution and expect miraculous results. We pray and want God to wave his magic wand and give us an instant miracle. Now, sometimes He does – I have seen Him bless someone with miraculous change. I had it happen to me once. But more often than not, the journey is the point and we have to work for it. We have to put in the rehearsal time and do the homework. We have to memorize the new script and then go beyond that to a place where we forget we are acting and we just are.

I am rehearsing for a part, where I focus on the positive and count my blessings. I have played this part before, but lately I feel a need to reprise the role. For me, my script is Philippians 4:8 and a host of other lines taken from the best life-script ever written.

If you don’t like how you are reacting to something in your life, write a new script. If you have a bad habit you want to change, give yourself new blocking. Write down the lines and the blocking and carry it with you.  Rehearse it every day and eventually you’ll get it memorized. Then keep at it until you go beyond memorization and you just are.

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