A few days ago, someone mentioned to me that one of his friends was unwilling to watch live theatre because he can’t get over the fact that all actors and actresses are narcissists. This got me to wondering why I am currently enrolled in a theatre class and actively participate in all the shows Palo Alto High School produces.
First, I had to address the question of whether or not I am actually a narcissist, and I quickly came to the conclusion that no, I am not a narcissist. I am well aware of the deficiencies in my acting ability. Thus, the first stated explanation for my acting went out the window. Then, I considered the substantial benefits that come with theatre participation. Public speaking skills, friendships, and public recognition are all good things, but they are not exclusive to theatre. They can easily be derived from other extracurricular activities, such as debate. Given that over the course of four years theatre has slowly but surely consumed all my time, including time that I would have spent at debate practice, I decided that there had to be another reason why I continue to do theatre.
The explanation that I settled on, at least for now, is that theatre is a place for make-believe. Much like fiction, the stage represents a fantastical world, even when the action taking place represents the most mundane occurrences. Romeo and Juliet never existed, Javert never chased Jean Valjean, and John Proctor never went to the gallows. But during a performance, a good performance, they become real people in the mind of the audience. In turn, the audience gives energy to the story; they encourage the actors with applause, laughter, and occasionally, silence. It’s a collaborative effort.
By acting, I contribute to the creation of an entire world, however temporary. That’s cool. And that’s why I do theatre.