When Theatre Makes You "Whole Again"

Liz Chirico

“Maria, these walls were not meant to shut out problems. You have to face them. You have to live the life you were born to live.” (From The Sound of Music)

What if you don’t know the life you were born to live? What do you do when you feel you simply don’t know anything anymore?

It’s easier to face life when you have a script, when it very clearly says how you should think and react and what you should say. When someone else tells you how you should move and even how you should look and dress. 

It’s easier to face life when you have less free time to think. When the answer to almost everything is, “I can’t, I have rehearsal”. There’s no stressing if you’ve said the wrong thing, behaved the wrong way because there’s no time to do anything outside of the theater world. 

For some of us, the lucky ones, when we feel we’re on a hamster wheel of life is when we dive into a show. It’s the chance to escape the monotony of our daily routines if only for a few hours a couple times a week. The chance to escape ourselves and become someone else. 

It’s wonderful to have a character to portray who’s all the things you’re not. Who’s better, smarter, and more confident and in control than you are. If you’re lucky, some of that character rubs off and becomes a part of you moving forward. 

We must throw our worlds upside down, take on more activities/responsibilities and have less time for all of it because in doing so, we find that balance we so desperately need. It’s that balance that makes us better friends, better spouses, better parents, better people.

Through the lens of the character we’re portraying, the show we’re immersed in, the new people we encounter during the creative process we help ourselves. Unlike what we encounter in many of our 9-5 jobs, this unique, creative process puts us into something bigger than ourselves. It’s something we are fully vested in from start to finish in which we play a vital, active role. The theatre process doesn’t come with instant gratification but it’s close in that everything you pour into the theater is rewarded quickly enough that you’re reminded all the tears, frustrations and days mainlining caffeine are worth it.

Hopefully, if we do things right, by the end of the experience we are transformed. We are ready to take on our lives, our problems with fresh understanding, new feelings and a different perspective. We are made whole again.

Photo: Muhlenberg College