"Life imitates art far more than art imitates life"
- Oscar Wilde
Ahhh, the great debate over this fabulous quote by the great author, poet, and playwright Oscar Wilde. This quote has been chewed on by both sides and I'm here to say that I side with Wilde. Life imitates art and it's not the other way around.
From the moment we wake up in the morning, until we're off to bed, life is imitating art. To get into specifics, what I'm saying is that even if we don't realize it, the world is our stage and the ways in which we live embody acting. Here's why:
1. We're all pursuing objectives.
Life is all about making decisions....And owning those decisions. Just like Constantin Stanislavsky proclaimed in the early 20th century: how we make decisions on stage depends on which objectives we're pursuing. So much like acting, life is about finding which action you should play in different situations based on your objectives. This determines your success. When you march up to your boss to demand a raise, you have a handful of options to choose from as far as figuring out what action to play. We ask ourselves: "What do I want?" A raise. "How do I get what I want?" We have options! Do you want to play the pity card? Tell him you're drowning in debt? Or do you march right up to him and demand that raise with all of your force? We all have decisions to make, just like actors on stage, that influence the next move in our lives.
2. Life requires listening.
This is a tough one for people on and off of the stage. Not everyone off of the stage models good listening. Not everyone on stage has it mastered, but those who are on stage know the importance of listening and responding. This is perhaps a lesson that people can learn from actors! Actors know that unless the script dictates otherwise, they must listen to one another. A scene is most interesting when actors are listening and responding to one another. I wish this would cross over into everyday conversations and communication. Can you imagine a world where everyone mindfully listened to one another and responded, rather than talking over each other?! I know, I can't either.
3. We spend most of our time improvising.
How much of life is planned? How often does life go according to plan?! I think you can agree that life has it's own plan, regardless of how tightly we hold and try to control where it goes. The same holds true for acting and performing. I recently had the great experience of stage managing for the first time. The play I was fortunate enough to assist was Michael Frayn's 'Noises Off'. This play, for those of you who don't know, is a complete doozy! Most of the action seems like chaos, especially in the second act. During our rehearsals and run of this production, I caught myself wondering again and again... "Does life imitate art? Or does art imitate life?". You know my answer now. And for the record, we absolutely conquered this 'doozy'. Most of that was because of the cast's willingness to go with the flow, and improvise whenever needed. This can help so much off of the stage especially!
4. We spend some of our time impersonating the people around us.
Have you ever impersonated your boss, a friend, or a professor? Hopefully if you have, it was in good humor and you didn't get caught doing something awful! Some of the best acting can be seen in skits on SNL, like this one. Impersonating is a natural tendency. Tina Fey just happens to be famous and get paid when she does it.
5. Life is like a monologue.
Especially if you're a teacher or spend time orally presenting in some context, this is hard to deny. Telling a story about your weekend, trying to persuade someone to go out on Friday night, talking to yourself; these are all examples of what actors call a 'monologue'.
Like that dead guy Shakespeare once said, "All the world's a stage". Get out there and face the world with the acting skills you've already acclaimed!