What is the 4th Wall?
The Fourth Wall is a theatrical term for the imaginary “wall” that exists between actors on stage and the audience. Obviously, no such wall really exists, but to keep up the illusion of theatre, the actors pretend that they cannot hear or see the audience and the audience gets to enjoy the wonderful sensation of being a fly on the wall. The same effect often occurs in movies, only the fourth wall in that instance is a camera lens.
Although most modern drama usually shies away from acknowledging the audience (with the possible exception of holding for laughs), the fourth wall was frequently broken in Elizabethan and Restoration drama. Actors in Shakespeare’s day would run through the audience (often chasing other actors onto the stage), make various asides and jokes to the audience personally and usually at the expense of the other actors on stage, and even sit in the audience members’ laps or ask them to hold a crucial prop in an attempt to hide it.
Just as actors sometimes have to “break the 4th wall” to connect to an audience, so individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome or other Autistic Spectrum Disorders sometimes have to break through the difficult and sometimes incomprehensible barriers that separates us from neuro-typicals. Theatre has helped me more than even the best therapy or medication in putting myself out there, breaking through the stereotypes and disadvantages that are so often associated with Asperger’s Syndrome. Obviously, not everyone with Asperger’s can act or has any desire to do so, but I think it is important for all Aspies to realize that such a lifestyle, however challenging, is possible and that there are countless other opportunities in the world I hope will only continue to become more and more attainable. And it is my hope that through the small contribution of this blog, and through an increasing awareness of neurological disorders in the general public, the world will become a little more open-minded about people who see the world a little differently. Maybe a few decades down the road, individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome and other Autistic Spectrum Disorders will be able to defy the social stigma that is too often placed on them and break through the fourth wall, both on the stage and in life.