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Sustaining the Soul

  • Author(s): Penn, Christine Emily
  • Advisor(s): Robichaux, Richard
  • et al.
Abstract

Theatre requires faith: faith in the mysteries of this universe, in humanity, in imagination, but, above all, in one’s self.

It wasn’t until the role of Eliante in The Misanthrope that I realized how fearful I was to truly believe. In the play, Eliante’s contribution to the whole seemed quite simple: she was on stage the majority of the play, only spoke four times, and was hopelessly in love. Due to her lack of content, there was this immediate reaction to make her small. With large amounts of time on stage with not much to do, my eyes opened to the depths of which I could explore a character in order to sustain on stage. By not judging her or her capacities, I found and embodied her grit, density, and hope. She taught me that no matter who you are, on stage or in life, you are always abundant.

From that moment I began to uncover the richness of my characters and infuse technique with that process. I could use my breath, voice, and body to unlock, craft, and shape their behaviors. This became clear with Darlene, a Chicago native with a 20-minute monologue in Balm in Gilead, whose impediments controlled me at the start of the process. It doesn’t matter if I play a character that is easy to relate to or not, but my job as an actor is to continuously find the soul of that person. That is why being an artist is a lifelong practice that exists both on and off stage.

By having the courage to take in the world with body, mind, and spirit, I can encourage those around me, whether that is in the audience or on a subway car, to do the same. My faith in myself, and all the characters I will portray, is necessary in order to instill change in this world and be a vessel of hope.

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