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Nathan Thomas
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october 2007

When I was but a wee lad, our family moved into a house that had previously been owned by a family that had run a paint and wall paper store.  As a result, the garage retained old store . . . . stuff . . . . that no one wanted anymore.  A bonanza for imaginative kids.  This stash and cache of old, weird stuff provided props for all kinds of "let's pretend" games.  Along with everything else, the store must have given away stamps.

Now younger readers may not know or remember stamps.  Even before back in the day, stores would dispense a number of stamps that corresponded with the amount of a purchase.  A ten dollar purchase might have equaled ten stamps, for example.  People collected stamps in books and bought great stuff.  Like a toaster.  A toaster that actually worked! 

The most famous stamps were the 'green' stamps.  But this store had used an off-brand of stamp which must not have been very popular with customers, because there were loads and loads of stamps and several old stamp dispensers.  Stamps that had gone unredeemed.

Today coffee shops and delis and places like that have customer cards. Get your card stamped so many times, and you get a free cup of joe or a free sandwich.  That's wimpy redemption.  The good stuff only came from collecting hundreds upon hundreds of stamps.

It's hard being an actor.  We know that emotions and feelings play an important part of the actor's life.  But emotions are intangible and, seemingly, always just beyond our controllable reach. And they're difficult to fix and conjure up every performance or every take.

So we go to acting class or acting school, and we study with learned teachers who help us tap our emotions.  But then we hit something odd.

Variant shades of anger, a few shades of lust, and some aspects of mournful sadness seem to cover the range of emotions and feelings dealt with in many of these classes.  When I observe a class or talk with colleagues, the emotional work basically comes down to anger, lust, and sorrow.

Surprisingly, human experience limits itself not at all to these few emotions. Folks in their lives can feel a wider array of things.  For example, I've rarely seen shame on stage.  And I don't often see the emotions tied to forgiveness.

Forgiveness stands as a major factor in human life.  If people were unable to forgive, the human race would have been extinct long ago.  But somehow humans find a way to deal with pain, betrayal, and hurt – and it's forgiveness.

All of us in our lives do stupid, awful, hurtful things so that people around us get irritated with us.  And they're right to be irritated.  But the feelings of forgiveness go beyond anger, lust, and sorrow – these feelings reach somewhere else.  And the feelings of truly having been forgiven also move into other spaces.

Tonight I auditioned a group of actors for a play that ultimately asks serious questions about forgiveness, betrayal, and redemption.  And while I was watching the actors up front, I thought, "I'm going to have to teach some young actors how to deal with the feelings of forgiveness and redemption.  I have some hard work to do."

If you're an acting teacher, and you already teach these complex areas as part of a full emotional palette, then thank you.  You're doing good work.  If you're not, will you join in?

In this work we might be redeemed.

I'm hoping for a toaster.  One that really works.

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About This Article

©2007 Nathan Thomas
©2007 Publication Scene4 Magazine


Nathan Thomas has earned his living as a touring actor, Artistic Director, director, stage manager, designer, composer, and pianist. He has a Ph.D. in theatre and is a member of the theatre faculty at Alvernia College.
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Scene4 Magazine-International Magazine of Arts and Media

october 2007

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