The Enchantment of the Stage

Happy October!

I’m currently sitting in my dorm room, and I had honestly only just finished typing “Happy October!” when I looked out my window and saw a guy running (very fast) across a field with a girl clinging to his back.  Some others were chasing along after them, barely able to control their laughter.  A completely silly moment, which maybe nobody else saw or cared about.  But I saw it.  And it made me smile.

What I love about the stage is, it is never static and it is always present.  What is a stage?  What are the definitions?  Does it have to be indoors or can it be outdoors?  Does it have to be a performance, or could it be a seminar, classroom discussion, church or religious festival, a concert, a practice hall, a parent/teacher meeting?  What is a stage, and who are the players?  Who’s who?  Is a man at a checkout and a woman purchasing something from a store a “stage relationship?”  If a student raises her hand to contribute something to class, might not the teacher say, “Julia, take the stage”?  And at church, when I was a young boy, there was something about the pulpit and the preacher and how he interacted with the congregation that made me feel like a stage had been created . . . as if theatre was occurring.  Even in some of Jesus’ parables in the New Testament, I discerned this sense of an audience and a speaker and a text, with the boundaries of this imaginary stage slowly forming in my mind.

The stage, even though we may not always acknowledge it, is constantly present in our lives.  In human relationships and interactions, there is always some form of a stage.  Someone is speaking.  Someone is listening.  Something is being said.  Something is being heard.  Sometimes this all seems to blend together, and not always quite so neatly as a tightly rehearsed stage production.  But I believe there is always something there.

As human beings, we like to think we are valuable.  We like to imagine that we have something meaningful to contribute to the world around us.  We like to be valued.  We like to be needed.  When individuals “take the stage” in life, whether or not they are in an actual theatre, it gives a sense of significance.  Even if it is for just 20 seconds in a business meeting, we feel the change in ourselves and in others when the focus shifts and suddenly WE are the center of attention.  Admittedly, we don’t always have something to say, nor do we always say it at the right time.  As Oscar Wilde says in his typically brilliant but cynical fashion, “The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast.”

And yet, if I am able to dismiss judgment for a moment and look at the world through the eyes of a child who is only just discovering its awe and splendor, I find myself enchanted.  We’ve all heard Shakespeare’s famous line so many times now that it seems cliche (so cliche that Oscar Wilde parodied it over a century ago), but what if there is some truth there which deserves re-examining?

“All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.”

I think there is a reason this saying has become a cliche: because it is true.

And looking at the world through this lens, even if only from time to time, I begin to find enchantment.  I can’t discern where the stage begins, where or if it ends, or who’s playing what, but it doesn’t matter.  Because when life happens in such a way that we feel a brief glimpse of dizzy excitement, a moment of uncertainty rewarded with blissful surprise, we are experiencing the enchantment of the stage.  Just as I find a good play captivating, I find moments in my own life equally satisfying because (if only for a moment) everyone has remembered their lines, they’ve said them at the right time and with meaning, and the audience is applauding our efforts.

I have long been a fan of Jeff Lynne and the Electric Light Orchestra (perhaps more commonly known to some simply as ELO).  I sometimes think I should have been born in a different era, because a feeling of utter joy fills my entire being and washes over any worries or concern when I hear their music.  I sometimes experience the same feelings with much of the music of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, despite some of my favorites being considered “cheesy” or “dated” by many people in my generation.  It was through reading up about Jeff Lynne and his associated acts that I discovered “the Voice” – Roy Orbison.

Watch the video below of Roy Orbison singing “Only the Lonely”, and experience a moment of what I would consider “the enchantment of the stage:”

Just looking at Roy, before he starts singing, I am not particularly struck.  He is an ordinary looking man with a calm, almost introverted, stage presence.  And then, at the 0:25 second marker there is a moment which I could watch over and over and over again – myself and everyone in that room are waiting to hear what comes out of this unassuming man’s mouth and then, right on the money, a presence of such assured warmth and beauty fills the room.  The effect is so profound, even the individuals watching the performance live burst into applause and praise.  And this feeling is still tangible for me now, watching a recording over 25 years old!  I can’t help but find enchantment in that.

The next time you are with a group of friends or even amidst complete strangers, ask yourself this – are we on stage?  Who’s performing and what do they have to say?  If it’s you, don’t miss your cue.

~ by Ross on October 1, 2009.

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