Theatre can be magical

Published 5:40 pm Wednesday, November 20, 2002

By Staff
It's absolutely, unbelievably true when the atmosphere of theatre is described as "magical." The magic of theatre never fails to grip me.
I don't quite understand how that is. How can a story, the figment of someone's imagination, being acted out by people playing an intense game of pretend, be so touching? How is it that an audience becomes so totally engrossed in the mere mimicry of real life that they find themselves in tears, that they laugh, cry, hurt, live, and die with the actors? How is it that the portrayal of a life that is complete fiction can reach out and touch a heart so deeply that the image, the melody, the plot is never quite removed from memory? How is it that adults role playing as children do becomes an art, a craft, a thing of beauty? How does an elaborate game of charades become magic?
I really don't know the answers to any of those queries. All I know is that theatre does all of those things. It's similar to reading one of those incredibly compelling, touching, masterpiece books that you are so hungry for, yet when the read is over, you feel an intense emptiness, almost a sense of loss. I felt that way when I finished
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe and after all four times that I've forced Rhett and Scarlett through their drama. It's as if the book touches you in such a way that you are changed. The emptiness or loss isn't because of any real or imagined loss so much as it is because of the fact that suddenly, through some crazy twist of an author's mind, you've been forced to see something differently, to delve into philosophical regions that you've never reached, or maybe simply to forget you own life for a moment as you allow yourself to become a part of the character's dilemmas. Maybe that's the real reason for that empty feeling. It isn't because you've been touched or changed so much a it is you've been removed. A you concentrated on the fictional lives, you lose complete awareness of your own situation. When the story ends, their is the strange sensation of returning to a life that, for a few moments, was no longer your own.
Maybe that's what makes a great book or that amazing theatre magic. In a way, isn't that what art of all kinds is about? Giving us a chance to escape our own worries and taste life as we can only imagine or dream, for that moment when the entire universe can exist on a stage? That is an amazing connection, that covenant of belief between audience and actors or artist and art-lover. It is as if upon entering the theatre or picking up the book, the spectator agrees to transcend reality, at least for a little while, in order to dream. to remember what it is to pretend, to hope, to forget worries, to let time slow for a moment, to delve into the true art.
And that is the real meaning of magic.
Lindsey Sherrill is a columnist for The Atmore Advance.

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