Two Thousand Years in Rehearsal

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I have rarely been a part of a stage play, never part of a high school stage play, but I have seen them practiced.

I’ve seen the teenagers, some (often the ones you’d least expect) totally getting out of themselves and into the play with accents and costumes and a character or persona they put on that almost defies expectation.

And some, who you wonder if they’re always in some way putting on a play.

Aren’t we all, always in some way, putting on a play?

Some seem to have such a hard time just getting the lines down, a basic sentence or two memorized—much less inflection and enunciation and personifying the character in some remarkable way.

And this other thing we have been rehearsing for, as Annie Dillard says, nigh on 2000 years…

Have any of us ever actually gotten it right?

We forget our lines or speak over other characters. Our costumes are laughable and our accents worse.

And we wonder why the other characters seem to be messing up so royally when we realize that maybe we’ve stepped into the wrong play, quoting lines from The Tempest when it’s actually Midsummer Night’s Dream.

If all the world is a stage, who is the main character?

It’s me, of course, but if you think it’s you, and 7 billion people think it’s them, we might run into trouble at some point.

In one episode, Doug tried to start a band with his banjo. His best friend played the drums. One by one, their classmates and friends joined the band, each of whom played drums and each of whom wanted a drum solo.

Eventually, they kicked Doug out of the band because the banjo was too old fashioned.

But who wants to listen to a band of a dozen drum soloists, each of whom considers himself the main character?

Is this the rehearsal or is this the play?

Is it the prologue or the denouement?

Will we look back and wish we had practiced our lines a little more seriously?

Is that rumbling from somewhere beyond the blue God’s laughter? Or an angel’s tears?

And who wrote this foot washing into the play anyway?

Can I try out for another part before it comes to that scene? I’m not really good at washing feet.

But then you say that part has already been played, by the main character of all people.

And when he kneels to wash mine, I am undone.

When he hands me the sponge and basin and bids me to do as he does, who can believe it?

Who could not at least wish in some way to follow?