Monday, March 19, 2007

And All the Men and Women Merely Players

I recall from my high school theatre days the concept of the “fourth wall.” Those of us on stage – where you’d hardly ever find me, by the way – would consider there to be a wall rather than an audience. It was an imaginary wall, of course, as everyone on stage knew the audience was there. And the audience knew the actors knew that they were there. And the actors? They were onto the audience knowing that the actors knew that the audience was there.

Something occurred Sunday that made me recall that concept of the fourth wall. As often happens while I am writing about an event or a thought, my opening description or detailing of it further slams home what my initial thought was. Right now, dear reader, I’d be asking, “Say what?”

Maybe another time I’ll beat to death the concept that the mere writing of an event enlightens me more than the event itself. But, for now, here’s what I mean about the fourth wall and it’s popping to mind Sunday.

Sammy has her acting class on Sundays, so she and I always skedaddle from church to make it, breathlessly, to her TV1 class. This is the class which will springboard her to fame and fortune. A-hem. There is a nice little waiting room for parents which includes ample seating, a TV with DVD/VCR, a selection of DVDs and videos (all G-rated), and various magazines read and discarded by previous occupants.

We are all stage mothers there. I intentionally select “mother” in this case, as there are very few fathers in attendance. While I shouldn’t really use the term “stage mother” to describe everyone there – primarily me and one or two other folks – it’s clear that the mothers are often pushing their offspring into seeking stardom. Or at least a paying gig.

When I enter the waiting room at the stroke of 1:02 p.m., there is one other woman there. She is of no definable age, although I’d place her at the age where women in need of looking youthful start to go overboard on hair color, make-up and clothing choices. So she’s probably in her late 30s. (As I am nearing late 40s, I think I’ve earned the right to make fun of younger women trying to achieve youthfulness. Hey, lady, have a kid when you’re 40, 41, and then we’ll talk.)

She’s on her cell phone. It’s a gorgeous day outside. She’s chosen to sit inside. She’s talking to her mother. Her father is preparing to undergo surgery. It’s heart surgery. Her mother is scared. Her father is trying hard not to buckle under. She is talking intently about her fears, her reactions, and her need to tell her daughter tonight. She’s not told her daughter anything to-date. But now she’s going to have a very hard time telling her. She will do her best to answer all her daughter’s questions. But her mother and father better be ready if her daughter has more questions.

The cell phone lady is on stage. She even has a prop. She is thumbing through a thick fashion magazine as she talks to her mother. She is turning pages of the magazine. I hear it across the room.

Me? Who the hell am I? Why, I am her audience, of course. And she is pretending I am not there. And I am pretending I don’t know that she is pretending I am not there. And she is pretending that she does not know that I am pretending that she does not know I am there.

Am I supposed to feel pity for her? I don’t know if I’m supposed to. I just know that I don’t. And why don’t I feel pity? Because all the world isn’t a stage. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

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