William Shakespeare wrote in, As You Like It,
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances…”
As a child, when I first discovered my love for singing and writing, I had high hopes of going to Broadway and performing in a musical. Unexpected circumstances and events led me in another direction, yet the joy of singing and writing remained in my heart. Eventually, this led me to understand the profoundness of Shakespeare’s statement.
Even though I would not perform on a Broadway stage, the world would essentially become the arena where I would carry out certain roles. Some of these included being a child, friend, wife, church member, mother, and business woman. Every day, I was given the opportunity to perform each role poorly or well.
In the same respect, each one of us is given some kind of opportunity to be a player in life. The part we have been offered or choose and prepare for must be well thought-out before we accept it, because our friends and family, along with the rest of the world, will remember whether we carried out that role with greatness or mediocrity.
When I think of Oscar winners who are considered by the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences to have acted their roles with excellence, I ponder how they became transformed into the character in order to make the performances believable and award-worthy.
In some cases, such as Adrien Brody as Wladyslaw Szpilman in The Pianist, preparing for a role was grueling. “Brody gave up his apartment, sold his car, and moved to Europe with only two bags so he could get familiar with his character's discomfort. The actor … also went on a crash diet and lost 30 pounds in six weeks, weighing 130 pounds at his lightest during shooting. He also took piano and dialect lessons.”1 His intention was to experience what real hunger was like in order to understand the suffering of the real-life-character whom he was playing.
In the movie Black Swan, Natalie Portman plays the role of Nina Sayers, a ballerina. In preparation for her role, she trained with Mary Helen Bowers, a former N.Y.C. ballet dancer. Her regiment included dancing for eight hours a day, six days a week, for more than a year; she also swam, cross-trained, and took endurance classes.2.
One of my favorite examples is what Jamie Foxx did to prepare for his role as Ray Charles in the movie, Ray. “Foxx lost 30 pounds by fasting for a full week and then doing daily workouts and adhering to a strict diet. But the real commitment came during filming when Foxx agreed to wear prosthetic eyelids glued over his eyes to mimic Charles' blindness. It caused the actor to have panic attacks during the early weeks of shooting and crew members would sometimes leave him on set, forgetting he couldn't see. In addition, Foxx, who went on to win Oscar gold for the performance, learned to play all of the piano parts in the film.”3 Mr. Foxx said he did this because the director of the film, Taylor Hackford, thought it would be beneficial if Jamie knew how it felt to understand the darkness that Ray Charles lived in.4
It may seem easier for these actors and actresses to shine because they already have a script to follow, a director directing them, make-up artists, perfect lighting, a supporting cast, and even acting coaches, but nevertheless, each player ultimately has to memorize his or her lines, invest in the character, make sacrifices, and execute with perfection. We too have a script to follow. The writers and directors are prophets, apostles, preachers, philosophers, theologians, bible scholars, and great thinkers whose works refer to love, peace, harmony, philanthropy, benevolence, and altruism.
For those of us who are not performers by profession, we should consider welcoming the idea that the world is our stage, and that by adopting the techniques of these dedicated actors and actresses and applying them to whatever it is that we do, our performance level will elevate and command respect.
My mom used to remind me that no matter what I ended up doing as a profession, I should do it with love in my heart. I have since learned that my everyday life is my Broadway stage, and my role is to be loving in all things. This requires dedication, sacrifice, and constant practice, sometimes tasks even more grueling than what these award winning performers endured, because this role does not expire when the film is completed.
I am sure if I were to take a survey of all those who have seen my performances in these roles, many would not vote in favor of my getting an Oscar! As I continue to perfect my performance, I applaud those who have already succeeded in perfecting theirs.
To embrace this idea of the world being your stage and you merely a player, consider adding love to all that you do, and then just maybe you will be called up to a grander stage and receive an award for best the performance!
1 Zemler, Emily. “15 Actors Who Went to Seriously Extreme Measures for a Role.” ELLE. 2016. Accessed August 27, 2016. http://www.elle.com/culture/movies-tv/a33861/extreme-role-prep/.