Personal Journeys with Gramma

Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.

Developing the Part You Play

Long ago when I was directing high school plays, I used to tell the actors who made up the background, dancers, or chorus, “You may not be the lead, but you can definitely wreck the production for everybody else. You’ll stand out in a bad way. You’ll see what I mean if you look at the photos people take.” In other words, anyone out of character on stage breaks the illusion of reality. So everyone—including all those players with no character name or lines—has the ability to help make the show work. Every actor on our MUSIC MAN River City stage wrote their own backstory—identities they invented and reasons why they were present. They were extremely creative and well considered, and they worked. All the actors were invested in the show. And when the production photos came out, the background people could see how beautifully they added to the illusion of a town. Their families were proud.

Last night, my husband and I watched another installment of EVOLUTION on PBS, a series I’ve mentioned before. The episode highlighted the interconnection that makes each member of an ecosystem important—large animals such as wildebeests to fertilize and trim grasses (which stimulates them), dung beetles to add to the soil, and predators to ensure the large animals keep moving from place to place and don’t overgraze. Natural grasses, as it turns out, are the biggest heroes of fighting climate change for their contribution to capturing greenhouse gases. I remember reading an article about how bison—or buffalo as they’re popularly known in the U.S.—are perfectly suited to keeping the grasslands healthy and safer from fire. Unlike cattle, bison also birth their calves only when the weather is mild enough to give the young a good chance of survival. They’re nomads that don’t overgraze, aided by prairie dogs that loosen the soil. So we need large nomadic animals, insects, and predators that don’t kill more than their share—all of whom we’ve carelessly slaughtered at one time or another because we didn’t want them.

In the human population, we often hear people say they want to make a difference. The fact is, we all do, whether we realize it or not, and the difference may be positive or negative. Each of us matters. Like the egomaniacal hunters who nearly wiped out the buffalo, we can work against the survival of our species. Those who weren’t whistle-blowers when the corporations began using workers as subservient less-thans, and lying to the public about hazards they created and fed to the masses didn’t do anyone any favors as they collected their blood money. We could’ve learned a lot from the indigenous peoples, but we didn’t until we began realizing their insights. The positive people are trying to clean up the mess, replacing selfish wants with needs.

But most of us don’t see ourselves as either heroes or villains. We’re simply trying to live life as well as we can. Without a view of the BIG PICTURE, we can’t see the ripples we create over time and descendants. We can’t see that in trying to do the best we can, we’re doing what we were sent here to do. We’re all on the stage, whether we know it or not. We can choose to be the bright corner or the one who wrecks the show for everyone else. If you don’t know why you’re here, try inventing a positive goal, an identity for yourself. Chances are, you’ll be right on. We gain or lose together.

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