Posted by: nightmistwalker | November 23, 2013

Thoughts on Myths

The play is over. Strike was Monday, with the set being cleared of props and then dismantled, the costumes being sent to the cleaners or the laundry, and the floors swept and washed. Auditions for the next play are December 9, although the directors are already well into the process of planning and preparation.

While watching the strike in progress, I fell into conversation with one of the custodians. We began by talking of the purpose of theater at the high school level. Most of our students will not go on to participating in it at a professional level. However, the value for teenagers is the opportunity to take on the lives and characteristics of another person in a safe, non-judgmental environment. They are able to explore causes and effects of behaviors and choices, without having to actually live a life that incorporates the lifestyles and values of the roles that they play. They get to make decisions about their own lives by experiencing the alternate realities contained within each production.

Theater’s roots go back to very ancient times. Humans have always taken on the characteristics of other creatures, including animals, other humans, and gods. We have adorned our bodies from time immemorial, using dyes (henna, woad, etc.), paint (from plants, ground stones, etc.,) and tattoos. We have created masks from a plethora of media. We have danced, made music, and told stories for so long that these activities reach far back into our prerecorded history. Indeed, there have been videos made of chimpanzees dancing. We may be hard-wired to dance.

The custodian looked longing at our (admittedly gorgeous) set. “It’s such a lot of work,” she said. “It seems a shame to tear it down after such a small amount of time.”

“It is a lot of work,” I acknowledged. “Yet, that is a life lesson, too. The students and the adults worked hard for a very long time, but when it is over, it is over. We worked as a creative team, but that team will dissolve and move on. We built this elaborate set, but it has outlived its usefulness, and so we must dismantle it so that it will become something else. It’s time is finished. It is time to change. We gloried and partied all weekend, and we have our memories of that. We are sad on Monday as we tear down our work. But tomorrow is Tuesday, and then it is time to begin something else. There is change in every aspect of our lives. We are always ending something. With that ending, though, we always begin again. It is the human condition. How many times have we ended something in our lives, and how many times have we moved on from that ending. We always have Tuesday. We always pick up and go on.”

As I spoke, the woman’s face changed. She nodded gravely, obviously thinking of the changes in her own life and the times she had to start again. Her gaze never left the set, but memories of things I could not see were flooding her brain. Then she smiled, and glanced at me. With another nod, she moved on.

The great stories – those that have never died – teach us these life lessons. The tales of heroes, gods, and the common human experience give us tools to use in our own lives. Theater is the tool of myth. And there will always be stories to tell.

Mourn your Mondays, and rejoice in your Tuesdays. May your stories be plentiful and well told.

Blessed Be.

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Responses

  1. I love it. I try to always have as many Tuesdays as possible.

    • That’s why you are so busy – and never bored!


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