Practicing Theatre as Yoga in a Screen-Filled World

Photo by Rickelle Williams.

Imagine this post-pandemic world: Movie theater businesses offer stream-at-home packages and return to drive-in models. Since film stories are enjoyed in the comfort of personal spaces on personal schedules, more people get together in public for live art.

This return to in-person storytelling and dive into immersive experiences would mean the future holds practicing theatre as a form of yoga in a screen-filled world. Screens make art and entertainment easy to take in, while they remove a key element: human to human connection, which is what community were to run on.

Practicing Theatre as Yoga in a Screen-Filled World

Yoga is Responding

When a class or career in theatre is chosen, a yoga practice is also chosen. Yoga is the practice of going with the flow of life. Acting is reacting, and good acting is responding; laughing and crying and always understanding that life can’t be controlled, only can one’s response to it.

Like when a performer accidentally tosses a bucket into the orchestra pit, barely missing the viola player by inches, and maestro storms backstage demanding the performer come to their dressing room after the show. The best response at that point is sending the performer good vibes while hoping they have been well-behaved.

People are responsible for their own actions and can be their neighbor’s helper. Not going out of the way to “be a hero,” but by seeing ways to help others.

The Bard Was “Woke”

The performer forgot to remove their satin gloves in the costume change. Shouting, “Remove the gloves!” as they run past and onstage helps in that situation. But it doesn’t stop on the stage. The theatre is a small version of the world itself. William Shakespeare wrote in As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.”

Hold the door open for people entering a building. Hang out with kids so their parents get a break. Drive intoxicated friends, or strangers, home from events. When a friend needs a place to crash for a night or two, turn the couch to a sleeping surface. Buy water, peanuts, and requested cigarettes for the person meandering around the gas station. Life is heavy and judging makes it heavier. Be present and open to the flow of life and peace. Helping others in this way has a far reach.

Mental Dis-ease

The experience of mental dis-ease is common, even if it’s as mild as anxiety. The stigma of it plus limited healthcare access result in many not seeking assistance that is helpful. This creates groups of people getting by with whatever means necessary. Capturing the high that comes with putting on or watching a live production is a great option.

There is something magical about live theatre. Practicing theatre as yoga checks personal stories at the door for a span of time while shifting gears to a different story. This is a practice in “perspective-shifting”. Without changes in perspective, or viewpoints, people start believing some of the crazy things the mind comes up with.

Human Beings, Not Human Doings

Perfection is not possible on a human level. Train the mind to stop expecting it and freedom arrives. Technological advances are great, but they trick mankind into remodeling itself in its image: “mathematically precise.” In stage management, awareness is in both the creative and logistical worlds of a show. The moving scenery is to hit the same mark and run at the same speed every time. But the performer walking on the platform is to sing a show from their heart each night as opposed to a precise and “rehearsed” performance.

More important still, the stagehand moving the scenery must be aware of the performer’s actions, so they notice if a piece of their costume is caught in the scenery track. In the big picture of things, it is better to miss a small scene change while the stagehand frees the costume piece than to risk ripping it and telling the costume designer after the show. Anything can happen in live theatre, just as anything can happen in day to day life. Both shows must always go on. Practice keeping it going while sticking to the integrity of the story being told.

Practice Makes Progress

The honesty of the individuals’ story is still being compromised in favor of the “greater good.” So much so, that humanity doesn’t see its story in its fellow man. The stories told on stage and on screens mean nothing if the people telling and watching them aren’t having their own physical, mental, and emotional needs met. Life will never be perfect. But it gets simpler with practice.

Communication, a positive attitude, and teamwork can accomplish a lot, as can laughing, crying, and the feeling of feels. This is scary if all that’s known are gathering places with harsh fluorescent lighting, strict social rules, and no alcohol in sight. Go see live theatre. It does not matter if the show has won any awards, nor if the cast has big credits, nor if there’s a flashy light show at the end. It’s a dark room that invites relaxation, a drink (or not), and a channel change. No show is ever the same, even when seeing the same company perform the same show two nights in a row.

Age of Aquarius

Practicing theatre as yoga brings more than shared experiences with friends, family, and strangers. The mind and heart are trained to let go of expectations and flow with what comes. The stories on stage aren’t often that different from the stories made up in the head. Some are comedies, some romantic, some nightmares. Some are even all three and more. They have a beginning and an end, and the truth of the matter is any show can be left if it’s not enjoyable.

Let the sunshine in. Time spent in the dark is only useful with the beauty and peace of the light.

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