Now, wasn't there a famous playwright who wrote, All the world's a stage and the men and women merely players? As I approached this theme Thursday I had no idea what to write about because my career has been so closely associated with theatrical stages. Do I write about different types of stages or the stages of a theatrical production or maybe just stages of life?
Then, my sister wrote to me about her idea about the theme and I realized how intricately linked the stages of life are to theater. Yeah, I know probably quite obvious to most people but sometimes I need a slap to the head. Mr. Shakespeare designates seven stages of life but what's left out or perhaps implied is how we get from one stage to another; that's where the drama of life lies and the drama of theater as well.
When we attend theater, we are seeing characters at a certain stage of their life. We're introduced to them "in medias life" so to speak. The characters we encounter have lived through several stages already; the mewling puking baby, the whining schoolboy, perhaps ever the lover if we are to use Mr. Shakespeare's descriptions. The backstory of the character is shaped by these stages as determined by the actor. And, the play we watch presents us with these characters dealing with yet another stage of their life.
My sister's description of her stage of life really clarified this idea for me: widow with a 20-year old son, should be getting ready for retirement. But, much to her dismay, she has discovered that her current job may not last and she may have to find another position in this troubling economy. There's a character right there: at a stage in life where one thing is expected (retirement) when suddenly, a wrench is thrown into the works and mucks it up. Curtain up!
Of course, in theater she'd have to have perhaps another serious conflict to deal with and everything would be resolved in a couple of hours. Unfortunately, life is not like that. I have had those days, those really bad days, when I wish I could take an intermission, have someone sweep the stage, set out new props, and I could join the action 10 minutes later but in the world of the play (and thus my world) it would be the next day.
Yet, the actor on stage is subject to the words of the playwright, the direction of the director, and is allowed only one part of that collaborative process (and they often don't have a say in who their co-cast members are). We, in strutting and fretting our hour upon the stage are at once the playwright, the director, and the actor rolled into one. It is up to us to decide if our tale will be told by an idiot or if our "stage" is truly a kingdom and we the princes.