I’m standing right beside him as he lifts a small glass, raises his hand high and pronounces, “God bless us, everyone!” The audience, predictably, lets out a collective, sympathetic sigh. This holiday season, I have the pleasure of playing Tiny Tim’s mother for nine performances in ten days. I watch him offer the famous toast; I choke back tears as I experience his death; and I watch from the wings as Scrooge makes his famous transformation.
I’ve been performing, off and on, for most of my life. It’s the ultimate make believe, the best adult dress-up ever! I find it challenging, nerve wracking, exhilarating and just about the most fun hobby in the world. One of the reasons, I think, that I keep going back for more is that performing requires a sort of ‘awakeness’ that Scrooge himself (in his final scenes) would appreciate.
When I’m in a live performance, almost anything can happen. I’ve had to cover other actors’ missed lines, improvise around missing props and stumble on stage after a nearly forgotten entrance. It has all happened. I’ve learned that I must be both hyper-alert and gently open to any possibility if I want the performance to go smoothly. There’s no room for daydreaming, worrying about the future or regretting the past. Performing – like other high intensity activities – brings me unequivocably into the present moment.
And what a joy it is to be so thoroughly awake! It’s the kind of joy that I imagine Scrooge feels when he realizes that he’s not dead and now he gets a chance to live, really live. When I’m not performing, there is so much mental chatter and resistance and distraction in my life, so many obstacles to appreciating the moment. This holiday season, I’m trying to carry my theatre induced mindfulness into my daily life. All the world’s a stage – yes — but for me, the stage teaches me to be more fully present in the world.