Every Day We Show Up

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Dress Rehearsals

Every Monday during the winter, I drive into town. There, twenty young actors and a few directors gather to work.

We block scenes so the actors know where they’re supposed to be, when. We practice dialogue so they know their lines and how to deliver them. We fine tune character development so they know how to inhabit their role. 

In the beginning progress is slow. Details that seemed settled at one practice get lost before we make it to the next. We forget lines and props and which side of the stage to enter from.

But week by week, little by little, we improve. The actors go where they want to end up. They say the right line at the right time. And they become the character they’re meant to be.

It’s a process.

We start with blocking rehearsals. We don’t do the scenes in the order they appear in the script. We work the scenes in an order that helps us make the best use of our time. To an observer it might look as though we’d dropped the script and are performing a mixed up story.

But observers don’t matter at this point.

We just need to figure out what’s happening on the stage: How to get from here to there. How to get the props on. How to get the set changed.

After blocking, we move to polishing. We work on getting on and off stage at just the right time and in just the right way. We work on saying our lines not like ourselves but as our character. We quit relying on scripts because we can’t use them in performance and it’s impossible to act well with a book in your hand.

A few weeks before the show, we begin technical rehearsals– bringing in sound and lights and special effects and the audio-visual crew so that it all flows together. And we continue to polish. We perfect line delivery and placement and postures. We prepare for the inevitable moment when someone will forget a line, when some prop will disappear, or break, or just get forgotten.

And then it’s dress rehearsal, probably the cast’s favorite one of all, with costumes, a dark house, and directors glued to their seats, unable to stop things and ask them to “run that one more time.” It’s the moment they’ve been working toward. They take the stage. They perform the show. Just as they’ve practiced.

When it’s over they’re tired and hungry and ready to go home, but first they sit together on the stage and we talk. They talk about how they think it went, what went well and what they hope doesn’t happen again. Then the directors and even the technical crew do they same, because it’s important to know what went right and what still needs some work.

In just over twelve hours we’ll all be back, putting on makeup and costumes, and–because they’re all teenagers–eating, rested and ready for the show.

The lights will go down. They’ll take the stage. And the show will begin.

The cliché is right. Life is not a dress rehearsal. But it’s not a performance, either. Life is living, one day at a time.

We show up for practice. We block so we know where to go, when. We polish so we know how to communicate, what we need to say and how and when we need to say it, how to make ourselves heard and how to be silent so others can be heard. We practice the technical stuff and grow more and more into who we already are.

Over and over again.

Every day we show up with what we have,  ready to do our part and do our best. Every day we block the new, polish the old, and hold an imperfect dress rehearsal for the day to come. And every day we learn from that day how to better move into the next one, how better to run the race set before us, how better to attend to and apply the Word that lights our path.

Life is not a dress rehearsal. It isn’t a performance. It’s a story, blocked, polished, and lived out one day at a time, with new mercies raining down.

And you?  What are you showing up to today? What’s it teaching?

Linking this post at Jennifer, Lyli, Brenda, Barbie, Jen and  Dawn‘s.

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The Single Seat


During the first months of the year, a friend and I directed a play together: Outlaws, Goldmines, and Whatnot. On performance day, I realized that our directing work was done. Oh, we had makeup to help with, questions to answer, and I gave what one of the boys called my Storming the Beach at Normandy speech but now it was up to the actors.

They had worked. They knew their lines. They understood their characters and their place in the story. What they didn’t know was how the audience would respond.

The lights went down and the actors took the stage. The play began and the audience laughed.

That was new.

So they adapted. They repeated the lines swallowed up by the laughter. Then they thought ahead. All those lines that had tickled them in the early practices, in the days before they were numbed by weeks of repetition? They paused after those, ready for the audience to fill the gap.

Their acting changed, too. The outlaws were badder. Romance, more romantic. Bravado, more nauseating. It was fabulous, just exactly as it should be.

On the stage.

My daughter was on that stage. As she effused her thrill at being spoken to by a young count she’d been secretly admiring, my friend leaned in close to whisper, “Look at her play to the audience!”

Maternal pride mingled with unexpected sadness. That sweet girl wants to be an actor someday. She loves to make people happy and I hope she keeps her acting to the stage and out of the rest of her life.

All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players; They all have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts; His act being seven stages. –William Shakespeare, As You Like It

We enter, helpless and naked. We’ll exit, feeble and frail. We aren’t here long before the audience comes into play.

From my seat I could tell that not all of the laughers responded in the same places. Some lines elicited laughter from across the theater. Others got a reaction from one section while the rest of the audience remained quiet. And sometimes the laughter came from a single seat.

The response from the single seat was subtle. The actors were busy acting and I don’t know if they even noticed it. In life, though, it is the one we need to attend to.

It’s hard to resist playing to the reacting audience, especially for those of us who like to make people happy. Just as people in the audience responded to different lines, the people in our lives will be pleased by different things.

So Shakespeare is right. Kind of.

All the world. Absolutely. The audience is there, but we get to choose who we will play to. Will it be made up of the ones who call so loudly, the ones our hearts nearly insist we try to please? Or will it be the One in the single seat, the One voice that really matters, even when everyone else is silent?

Sharing this week at Lyli’s Thought Provoking Thursday, Kelli’s Unforced Rhythms, Jennifer’s #TellHisStory,  and Holley’s Coffee for Your Heart.