Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Magic of Imagination

When I was a kid, I used to play with my Barbies for hours. I made up stories for them, created lives for them. I used to do the same thing when I was playing in our sandbox (which, by the way, was orange). Using my imagination was second nature. I read books like crazy, and I often stayed up way too late because I was so immersed in the story that I forgot to stop.

These days, it's a lot harder to be imaginative. One of the most challenging classes I've ever taken was Scriptwriting. Creating a story of my own with dialogue? It felt impossible, and though I pulled a decent grade, the play I wrote was pretty disastrous.

The reason I mention all this is because I watched the end of Finding Neverland tonight. It's one of my favorite movies, and one of the few I took a chance on buying before I'd seen it. It's also the one movie I am guaranteed to cry while watching. It's about J. M. (James) Barrie and the family that inspired him to write the play Peter Pan. James meets some young boys playing in the park, and he ends up befriending them. They have all kinds of imaginary adventues, from old west cowboys to pirates. The end of the movie is my favorite. It's opening night of Peter Pan, and amidst this group of serious grownups dressed to the nines are a group of 25 orphans scattered throughout the audience. When the curtain rises and the nanny/dog comes onstage, the begin to children laugh. As the play progresses, the children's ability to use their imagination rubs off on the adults and everyone is entranced with the story of Peter Pan. I get choked up at this part every time.

That's why I love theatre. It touches people in a way that movies and TV don't. You're practically a part of the action. There's no wall between you and the actors. You can't distance yourself the same way. When you're watching a movie at home, you can be on your computer, or you can pause the movie to go get a snack or do a load of laundry. At the theatre, it's like real life. Real people are onstage. The mood is practically tangible. Even in a play that doesn't have fancy sets or costumes, the actors can really pull you in.

I've seen amazing plays at some of the local theatres. I love the sets and costumes. As an actor, those are some of my favorite parts of getting to be onstage. I've also done theatre in some pretty bare bones situations. In college I was in a play where the stage was just the back and front curtains, a table, bench, and some chairs. That was it. And it was a really powerful play. I was also in a play recently where our walls were made of PVC pipe and black fabric. It was still one of the most emotional plays I've ever done.

I love drawing people into an experience. I love it when people are a part of a play that touches them, that changes them. But I also love being a part of a play that's just fun. Sometimes people need a break from their life, time away from their stresses and worries. I love to help them laugh and enjoy themselves for a few hours. I love showing people a different world, a different time or culture. It's so magical. The energy right as the lights start to dim. The excitement right before I walk onto stage. The sounds of a crowd laughing, or seeing people with tears in their eyes at the end of the show. There also something so connecting about sharing that experience. We're not all a bunch of people who are different; we're a group who has shared something. That's so special.

I hope I can act for the rest of my life. When I'm a little old lady I want to be in Arsenic and Old Lace. I want my kids to be able to experience theatre. I know it's not everyone's favorite thing, but I will never stop believing in the magic we can create with our imaginations.

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