In play, we learn to be malleable, to be open, to move with what happens. Theater techniques like improv and Meisner teach us to be better actors by practicing being more fully present, in order to respond to what your scene partner is communicating to you right now, in this moment. To get stuck in a certain reading of a line or a specific portrayal of an emotional moment leads to a stagnant and forgettable performance on stage, as well as a loss of the aliveness that makes really good live theater so special.
However, we are creatures of habit. The trap of repeating, of missing the moment, of digging into one interpretation, exists for the actor only because actors are humans. We are all prone to clinging to our idea of what should be. What is familiar is also what feels safe, and the illusion of being able to plan and control brings us comfort. We all want to maximize our sense of success and minimize our risk of failure. So, we develop our own habits, our own ways of keeping ourselves safe and our worlds somewhat predictable.
But the only two things that are truly guaranteed to us in life are death and change. Change is a given, yet we work so hard to fight it. This tendency is understandable, because change is scary and disruptive and uncertain, but this fighting, this self-protecting in the face of change, can lead to so much suffering. When we can't adapt to a change in a relationship, a new living situation, a loss, a world event, or even just the stresses of daily life, life only gets harder. Life will challenge us, but we can find ways to reduce our suffering and increase joy, connection, and love.
Drama therapy offers us so many ways to practice change, try out new skills, to play with our lives and our habits, and to deepen our capacity for playfulness in life. As Amy Poehler wisely encourages in her book, Yes Please, "If you can surf your life rather than plant your feet, you will be happier.”1
- Poehler, Amy. Yes Please. Harper Collins, 20014. Audiobook.