Musings of an Ordinary Actor

There are writers, much better than I, to write of the skies and hues; I write of theatre, of the stage. That is where I belong. When I got involved in theatre 4 years ago, like most other 18 year old ‘aspiring’ intellectuals, I too had a very dreamy image of the world of drama in my mind. I too, had been looking up to the men who crafted fantasies on stage for more than long now. I wanted to be one of those incredibly larger than life portrayers of magnificent characters under the arc lights. As I sit and write this blog entry now, I realise how I am farther away from what I set out to become. I have however, grown; as an actor as well as a person.

Peter Pan
Peter Pan

The stage is a giver. You expect yourself to go all about giving the best performance, in every performance, in every play, and earning rave reviews for your antics, but after every play you are humbled by the vastness of the portrait in which you are only a tiny speckle. The stage absorbs your misgivings, your fumbles and your immaturity with open arms and teaches you profound lessons. As an actor you want to be the stellar entity but you end up miserable, having been shown a mirror that glorifies your own glitches. You are not the brilliant star you thought you would become; on the contrary you are only a vehicle, a commutation enabling the writer’s and director’s thoughts to reach the audience’s conscience.

The audience will not remember you, if you’re good enough. For most of the time I have spent as a production hand or at the light console, I’ve seen the audience’s reactions from a very close angle. They laugh, they jeer, they clap; while on stage you might get the feeling that all of it is for your craft and you smudge the glory all over yourself. If you’re lucky, you’ll realise some day that the applause isn’t for you! And once you’ve realised it, that’ll be a precious moment that very few fortunate actors experience.

‘When the show is over, you’ve got to take the mask off!’ You wear a new character in every play. Some colourful characters leave their stains behind; some miserable characters crush you, while some others leave behind their amorous scent. The brilliance of your performance lies only in the under-recognition of the effort you’ve made in being the character. You must think upon your character’s whim but act upon your director’s. And then the curtains come down; upon your show and upon those thousands of moments of magical being; and you realise its over. You realise that you must, for your own sake, take the mask off!

People often tell me how I have wasted time in theatre knowing that it doesn’t pay or, for that matter, even match up to the facade of popularity that acting and other allied avenues seem to garner, I throw at their passive minds the one line that has motivated me through these wonderful years of struggle on stage- Given a choice, I would much rather be an ordinary actor, than be just ordinary.

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