In a recent local theater arts guild production of the Wizard of Oz, I played the role of a munchkin reporter. Munchkins were the little people Dorothy first meets when a summer tornado spun her out of the mundane and ordinary life of a Kansas farm into the exotic, make believe world of Oz.
So what does a Munchkin Reporter do? How does she act? Is she confrontational or hesitant and a little shy like the other Munchkins? Does she stride boldly on stage, pushing her way in front of the others so she can write the story about this Dorothy who has dropped into their lives. It was up to me to create the role and act out the part.
At first I felt awkward as the Munchkins were very active on stage, both speaking and dancing. It challenged my sense of propriety and good manners. But after awhile, I was able to carve out a role that I felt represented both a reporter and a munchkin.
My world was greatly expanded as a result of becoming a member of this theater group – not just in terms of meeting new friends, but in my personal, inner world. Since I had never acted before, my learning curve was huge. But the directors were enthusiastic, motivating and encouraging and I experienced acceptance, tolerance, love, encouragement and support from them, the cast and crew.
Acting involves putting aside your usual safe self-image and identity to put on another. When rehearsals began, I was unsure of what was expected, how to act, or what to do. I was no longer a counselor, author, teacher, facilitator, etc. I was now a beginner, a novice, an experimenter, a singing apple tree, a singing jitterbug, and part of the great community of the Emerald City. It was exciting but scary – humbling but re-affirming; and in the end, life expanding.
We often miss opportunities in life because we fear taking a risk. We risk appearing foolish or lacking in some way. We choose to stay in positions where we feel safe and can continue to carefully craft facades that hide the vulnerable inner child inside each of us. With our masks firmly in place, we focus on the appearance of confidence which is unreal and unsustainable.
But unless we remove our masks, we cannot become genuine. Acting gives you the opportunity to remove your mask to expand your understanding of the character role you are representing.
If we don’t risk, we lose; we lose opportunities to grow – to expand our thinking and our accomplishments. Early in the learning curve, we learn humility and the ability to give and accept grace and kindness. We learn to become more tolerant and accepting – looking for and building on commonalities rather than differences and separation.
Everywhere in life there are opportunities, in every situation we find ourselves. We choose to see them or remain stuck in our comfort zones of anonymity, false security or brash bravado. We miss opportunities because of our fears: fears we won’t be accepted with all our warts, deformities and insecurities, fears we might not measure up or experience rejection again as we did in childhood.
Step out – risk – expand your world. The rewards are not applause – but a new layer of confidence.
Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC