| The Column:
April 2003, Theater
Hello and Welcome!
Theater had its beginnings in Ancient Egypt. It emerged from ritual practices and often dealt with the Egyptian gods, birth, death, and rebirth. One play performed annually at Abydos from about 2500 bc to about 550 bc dealt with the death and resurrection of the god Osiris. It included mock battles, processions, and burial ceremonies. Despite its beginnings here however, theater in Ancient Egypt never quite developed beyond ritual, pageantry, burial ceremonies, and commemorations of dead pharaohs. Greek theater evolved a bit further than Egyptian theater. It went from people sitting on the ground to the open-air theaters of ancient Greece, which held some 20,000 people. These structures became the prototypes for amphitheaters, Roman coliseums, and modern sports arenas.
In Medieval times theater was still held outdoors. The early church introduced dramatic ceremonies to counter pagan rites that remained popular throughout Europe. Also dramatized episodes from the Bible made biblical stories more earthly and understandable. Gradually, performances moved out of churches and into marketplaces. Lay performers replaced priests, and scripts became more complex, mixing serious religious subjects with more traditional everyday themes. As you can see these early theatrical themes helped the common man to put into action their religious, spiritual beliefs, and even call attention to the everyday necessities of life.
Theater can serve many purposes: to be entertained, to provide new insight and understanding about personal life, or even the examination of political and social issues. Throughout history theater has often reflected the society in which it takes place, giving people the opportunity to step back from what is going on in real life and look at the issue from a more distant perspective. (This examining of the play from a more distant perspective is very important and I will shortly revisit this idea in a new way.) In many repressive and authoritarian regimes theater provided entertainment to distract audiences from the brutal conditions under which they live or to serve as lessons in the virtues of the ruling powers. In more advanced and peaceful cultures theater examined the everyday aspects of life in new ways and allowed these aspects to be seen in a new light.
Theater depends largely on interaction with an audience. The audience for theater assembles as a group at a given time and place to share in the performance with the actors and all the surrounding elements of light, sound, music, costumes, and scenery. The audience affects the performance by providing the performers with immediate feedback, such as laughter, tears, applause, or silence.
You can draw some similarities and connections between theater and everyday physical existence. From a metaphysical perspective theater reminds humanity that life itself is a big stage from which one day everyone will awaken, a long continuous play where you write your own script, produce it, and even act in it. From the point where you are now this may not seem so because you are inside your life-play. Just as while the actors in a theatrical presentation are immersed in the play, they are largely unaware that they are acting. So too you have become unaware of the play you are in because your focus is on the presentation.
In an out of body state, or a dream, or even after death you awaken from the play and step into the larger framework from which your life force comes. Just as when the play is over the actor returns to his or her regular life. So too when your life-play is finished you will return to your previous life in the greater nonphysical universe. When that happens the play that was your life will seem like the dream. You will think back and even look at your life like a grand adventure where you got a few moments to play a certain part of your entire being in a unique way. You will then examine this play and realize the great truths it presented about yourself and where your strengths and weakness lie. Such is the way of physical evolution.
I have often said that physical reality is the great teacher. It is that and more. It is a small part of your entire being that you are exploring at the moment, uncovering its secrets and its gems, which you can examine, hold, and develop. Without this focus and the face that hides behind the acting mask you wear, you would not get the benefit of this self examination. The knowledge of who you really are would get in the way of who you are exploring at the moment. Think about the play and the actors. If they constantly thought about who they were off stage while they were acting, would their performances be any good? Would they come to know their parts intimately? Most likely not. So now you see the real purpose why your memory has been set aside of who you are in the greater nonphysical reality and why you have placed yourself into this seemingly singular life. It is not part of some hidden plot to keep you from expanding and growing; it is in fact the opposite. It gives you time to look at and examine a part of yourself that you could not look at so closely any other way.
You are both the actor and the audience in this play called life, and you can often get a glimpse of this in a dream where you become the watcher and the actor in the dream at the same time. Life is no different. You are the actor of your life, and you are also the audience and you have surrounded yourself with others like you doing the same. They become your audience as well and you become their audience. It all is part of the grand play within a play where everyone you write into your own play is also writing their own play. It is theater taken to its extreme in a wondrous and complex interaction that could not be experienced any other place or way.
There is no doubt that theater is an integral part of human culture today (television shows, movies as well). And perhaps the reason why so many people like these mini-adventures so much is because it reminds them that life too is a play, that life has meaning and direction. Nothing is haphazard about your life. You have planned it, wrote it, and are acting in it. As such, you can change that play's direction just as easily as a writer can write in a new part or direction in the actor's role. Even better because you are the one in control of the script. If you do not like something than write yourself something new, change the part you are in now to something else. It can be this easy.
Theater and life! They are not much different if you think about it. And if you try to remember this as you go about your day it just may make things a little be easier.
So, till next time...