All the World’s a Stage

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts . . .

William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII

I love the theatre. I love to watch performances.The performers I’ve seen range from local people who love theatre as much as I do, to Sir Ian McKellen.

We have lots of theatre in the Bay Area, everything from the American Conservatory Theatre to Berkeley Rep to TheatreWorks to Broadway road shows.

There are also many local little theatre groups. Here in Alameda, we have the Altarena Playhouse, performing since 1938. I have subscribed for years and find the offerings and the performances consistently good..

I also like to act. The smell of the greasepaint, the roar of the crowd. There’s nothing like a standing ovation, a showstopper, or making the audience laugh at the point where they’re supposed to laugh.

Way back when I was in elementary school, I wrote a play based on a book I’d read. My teacher was so impressed that my class then performed the play for the younger grades.

When I went off to college, I declared an English major with a minor in Theatre. Then I switched gears, to a Theatre major and English minor.

That was back in the days when I thought I was going to be a teacher, a plan that lasted until I took my first education class and realized that wasn’t my career path. Let’s face it, in my high school days, the counselors assumed that female students were going to be teacher or nurses, and I blanch at the sight of needles.

My sojourn as a Theatre major lasted through my sophomore year in college. Then I switched schools and went on to another major, Journalism. But I retained my love of theatre.

Before joining the Navy, I did some stage work in a local little theatre, playing the mother in Neil Simon’s Come Blow Your Horn. The role involves a lengthy monologue when the mother is looking for a pad and paper to take a phone message, and can’t find the items and gets the message all wrong.

The first night we performed, I pulled out the drawer in a coffee table and couldn’t get it shut. I was heart-poundingly distracted as I performed my lines. The next night I was more careful with the drawer and able to focus on giving my performance. I was rewarded with a showstopper, which means the audience applauded when I finished my bit. And yes, it felt wonderful.

On to the Navy, and my duty station in Guam. I got involved with a group called the Million Dollar Players, which was made up of Navy enlisted personnel as well as military wives and kids. Their previous productions had been melodrama, performed at various enlisted and officers’ clubs all over the island.

Let’s do something different, I suggested. I had just the play, Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit. And I was delighted to be cast in one of the best roles of all time, the eccentric medium Madame Arcati, who manages to call forth a ghost.

I haven’t done any acting on stage since those Navy days on Guam, though every now and then I think about auditioning for something. Sure, as though I could fit that into my already busy schedule.

But I have performed. I’ve put those acting skills to good use as an author, every time I read from one of my books. More importantly, I’ve used those skills as I plot my novels and create characters to populate them.

So all the world is a stage, even if it’s the podium at a local library, or my keyboard and my imagination. I have indeed played many parts.

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2 Responses

  1. Ah, Madame Arcati! I too, took on that crazy role for our Middlebury Players. I spent much of my life on the stage. The experience really helps, doesn’t it, in one’s writing? Using the method acting and “becoming” your character? Oh! I see above that I did a blog on it, too. Thanks for bringing all this back to mind, Janet.

  2. I also did a lot of acting in high school and college, including the lead in Witness for the Prosecution, using an accent stolen from my German instructor. I wonder how many fiction writers have a theatrical background. It helps a lot with characterization.

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