Contributed by Claire Lebowitz
All the world is absolutely a stage. In the theater of my dreams everyone is an actor. When one is made aware of this, a series of deep truths must follow. How will you play it? In the “how” we come to terms with our agency as players. This agency is important because the unification of the human organism is the cohesion of impulse and action, which is our only method for true social change. Acting teaches us that we are not merely helpless victims in the throws of an inhumane set of circumstances. When we act we practice the highest form of compassion and understanding and expand our own sense of ourselves. The actor is our guide through the transformative power of the theater. This could potentially transfer into one’s life and make us aware of the inter-relatedness of all things and the shades of difference that class, geography, language, race, age and gender place between us and the other.
The actor-spectator relationship must be examined carefully because when we talk about social change what we really mean to do is revolutionize man’s relationship to man. The theater gives us the opportunity to play by a different script than the play of war. To commune with people in a space and share the time, the moments of our life and expect those honorable guests to listen and not only listen but feel and relate; this is a daunting and important task. Everything is a symbol. We can hold a mirror up to what we perceive as consensus reality or we can rehearse another world.
We find ourselves in a time where Americans and people all over the world are finally waking up and realizing that we’ve lost our public assembly. We can no longer meet each other on the world stage to reveal ourselves in public and give voice to our struggles and our desires. If another world is to be possible the theater must become a popular art form; our concept of the theater must be expanded beyond “the fourth wall”, the imaginary thing that separates “us” from “them”.
Such a powerful tool should be used to create change and be accessible to all. Theater should be free; it should speak to the real struggles and desires of the people, not the board of director’s luxury lifestyle and the frivolity that keeps us all complacent. And surely, theater must exist beyond a ten block radius of midtown patronized by those who can afford to support a theater that perpetuates their status and serves the self-referential academic canon.
In the post-modern world that we live in our social media is making more people than ever aware of their opportunity to “create themselves”. The theater gives us a unique space to play out these questions of representation unmediated by technology. It is the place where we can try to discover who we really are. Though Shakespeare also knew and we must not forget that the theater is not only in the theater; it is in the streets!
Claire Lebowitz is an actor, director and writer in NYC. She is currently an activist with the Performance Guild and the People’s Puppets of Occupy Wall Street. She was once assistant director under Judith Malina and the Living Theatre and most recently traveled to Afghanistan and India directing and teaching theater and civics to Afghan youth.