Theater & Rituals
Acting is not pretending. We act our age. We act like a manager – or a waiter – or a diva. We actively choose how we behave in our lives. These choices are honest expressions of the real us. I may be cranky on the inside, but when I am with a troubled friend, I put that aside because I know what the moment – and my friend – needs. I use the words I have learned. The tone of voice I have practiced. Becoming the adult version of ourselves takes years of observation, scripts, practice and feedback. Generations before us provide guidance. The choreography of introductions. The rituals of grieving. What you can say about a friend’s child – and what you can’t say. All in the name of keeping us woven into a safe community. We don’t have to start from scratch each time. We follow the scripts and all is well. “Thank you!” “You’re welcome.” “Gesundheit.” “Have a nice day.” “Keep the change.” “How about dem Mets?”
If we want to run with our herd, we don’t keep stopping the group with, “Can you slow down a minute? I’m not sure I want to go left.” Yielding to “that’s the way things are done” most of the time is one of the most human things we do. Ceremonies, rituals, holiday traditions, protocol - even etiquette - all showcase our values and keep us comfortably engaged with one another. Although there is always room for personal style, full abandonment of a group norm can bring our membership into question.
RITUALS & CEREMONIES - Shared experiences bind groups together. Weddings, graduations and funeral services are but a few of our lifetime milestones when communities gather. To reinforce group values (and to ensure its legacy), each event has formal stories, rituals and processions that remind people who they are. Here is why this moment is important to us all. When our sports team comes into the arena with great fanfare, our hearts skip a beat. The magic is that, for that moment, all the fans in the stadium share that feeling. Religious groups often gather weekly, or even daily, practicing their beliefs as one. Real communities build and tighten.
SCRIPTS - Our lives are filled with scripts. From the basics of greeting and conversation starters to the more formalized processes of oaths and pledges, these words link people to the bigger pictures of faith, heritage, gender - and more. Successful assimilation into a group depends on learning these basics. Social skills have an immediate impact on social mobility.
ROLE PLAYING - Our capacity to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes is a key to building mutual respect and understanding.. We have this amazing ability to suspend our current world and think “as if.” It doesn’t need to be “acted out” to have a profound effect on our understanding. By pretending to be teachers or soldiers children wrestle with the demands and constraints of being an adult.
PUPPETS - Say what? Yes, puppets. Although not the most ubiquitous of theater disciplines, I happen to be a huge fan of puppets. Here is the magic for me. When a puppet shares a feeling or a problem - THE CHILD IS NOT PRETENDING! The child naturally wants to engage or help. They use their best skills. They show real care. Even adults have a hard time resisting.