The Village Idiot

April 28th, 2021

I learned more than I readily admit about life and art from high school theater.

This morning during my drive, I was thinking about something that happened during my favorite play that I was a part of, Cinderella Waltz, that ended up being a lifelong lesson in how to make art.

In this production, I played the village idiot. (A role that would clearly leave me typecast for the rest of my life.) One performace in particular stood out: during a heated scene with my stage partner, she forgot her line. (I swear I’m not calling you out, Elise, because you know what happened next!) Every emotion flooded me, particularly fear and frustration, and I used it all, as we tried to get ourselves back on track, and we did.

But the two of us were asked to stay after to talk to our director, Mr. Johnson. And when you forget your lines, you are certainly expecting to get a little (or quite a bit) chewed out.

What happened next, though, was absolutely unexpected.

He instead told us that it was one of the best performances he had seen out of us high school students, period. We had elevated what we were doing together, and it moved him, and he commended us; since I was expecting the worse, this conversation moved me in a way that I never forgot.

It taught me this lesson (besides “never forget your lines”): if you put actual emotion into what you create, it will resonate with other humans.

So from then on, I knew: if I was writing something, and it made me laugh, or punched me in the stomach, or made me cry, then there was a good chance it would do that for someone else.

A good recent example is in Theia. Throughout the book, I weave in the backstories of the animals in the shelter. When I was finished writing Apple’s, in particular, I was an absolute mess. His story is so subtle but it says so much about that simple, good boy. I knew it was special.

Theater, and the people in it, taught me a great deal. I’m so grateful to be able to use what I learned in that time in ways that still enrich my life daily.

Published by dennisvogen

I'm me, of course. Or am I?

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