Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Strutting My Time Upon the Stage
I had a strange dream last night. OK, they’re all strange, but this one especially. I was in a Shakespeare play, or a Shakespeare-like play. I didn’t recognize it. It seems now that it might have been King Lear or perhaps The Tempest. It’s not clear because I never read either one and can barely remember ever seeing them, unlike, say, Romeo and Juliette, which I have seen way too many times. At least one scene was set in a library and I was Prospero. It seemed upon waking that some of the words and images were from the Peter Greenway film Prospero’s Books. The library was filled not with books but with DVDs, and I was unpacking new DVD players and stacking them on shelves while reading my lines.
In the dream I was filling in for another actor and I was “on book.” Now here’s the thing: even though I was reading my lines in the dream the words poured forth in a torrent without pausing to try and remember what comes next, meaning my unconscious mind had either memorized and stored away lines from a play I hadn’t seen in approximately 20 years or I was unconsciously writing the script as I went along, with page after page of Shakespearean words tumbling out in a tempest of language. The thing that astounded me when I woke up was the realization that the unconscious mind could do such a thing, which I could never come close to doing while awake. Perhaps there was a half-awake moment when I realized that, and maybe that’s why I was reading my lines instead of reciting them. In whatever part of my mind the words came from I knew that I could not even read so many lines without stumbling, so in the dream I did stumble at one point but recovered nicely with passionately dramatic gestures.Hey, I’m an actor. In my dreams. In my waking life I think I’ll stick to reviewing the work of real actors.