Limitations Under the Spotlight


When the curtain call is finished and the lights fade, will you find satisfaction in your performance? When the scene shifts to a darker tone, can your presence bring the spotlight all the way to stage right? Or will you settle as a nameless extra in your own production?

Fun fact for the theatrical references: aside from writing, I take immense pleasure in performing in my community’s theatre programs. It has truly opened me up to a new art form that I had never realized was so important, and now I can’t imagine my life without a show a season. I know that my theatre life has impacted my writing for the better. You learn how to present a character completely, not only memorizing lines but telling a story with expression and emotion. Portraying a character is an art form, whether it be on the stage or on the page.


Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to play Emma Goldman in my community’s production of Ragtime. As you can see, this was an amazing role!


Now, back to the title of discussion. Limitation. I know you have probably heard the cliché line comparing life to representing a role onstage, but it’s not that bad of advice. For those of you who have never been in a play, allow me to break it down. You are given a role, and with this you are presented with a script. This script contains your lines and sometimes, if you’re lucky, cues as to where to stand, when to enter, and how to present yourself. You are given only so much time to rehearse and memorize this until it is tech week, where this will be drilled into you hours on end. You will be stifling under the heat of the lights. The orchestra will play over your lines. The batteries in your mic will die, leaving you mouthing your words, and maybe the set just might fall apart.

But you know what? No matter what, you keep going. Forget a line? Improvise. Forget where to stand? Improvise. The cardboard tree fell over when you walked past? Improvise and make it LOOK like it was supposed to be part of the show.

So this might not be a soapbox moment pertaining much to writing, but I still felt the need to write it, anyway. Life is one big improvisation piece. You will be fed lines, you will be given costumes that don’t flatter your character, you will have heated moments and dark, but the trick of the trade is to roll with it and keep the show going for as long as possible. The lights will fade, the roses will be tossed, and the critics will review your portrayal until the end, but just remember – you are the star.

Don’t let this be a boring one act monologue.


M.I.H. McCool


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