Typecast

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I remember vividly the email that assigned me my ‘character’ for the weekend… my jaw dropped…anything less ‘me’ you could not have imagined.

The workshop would be following an alchemical theme, using modern characterisation of ancient archetypes to explore the nature of the human psyche and its journey through spiritual evolution. Whilst the aim of the weekend was familiar, this was a new departure for me as the previous workshops I had attended had been run along more traditional lines, using characters from mythology or ancient pantheons. This contemporary storyline was something different.

In principle, I found it an exciting idea. Spirituality is too often seen as something to ’do’, separate from everday life… instead of something to ‘be’, and very much a part of it. I liked the idea of incorporating a more modern approach… never dreaming that a few years later I would be involved in presenting a spiritual workshop in the setting of a space ship…. However, that was in the future…

In practice, not only did it mean I was sitting there with my jaw dangling in a most unbecoming manner, it meant I would have no established story or image upon which to draw. But that was okay… these events are always entirely scripted and all you have to do is read…

Except, this one was bowling a slight googly… we all, said the email, had to introduce ourselves. In character. Unscripted.

You have to remember that back then I was timid and uncertain of myself. If there was a corner I could hide in, you would be sure of finding me there. And they had ‘cast’ me as a world famous opera singer….self-confident and fêted for her voice and control. Me, five foot nothing of quiet mouse who spoke so softly I was seldom heard….

If they were going to cast against type, that was about as drastic as it could get. Apart from anything else… I couldn’t sing.

I remember shrinking against the back wall, waiting my turn as the introductions were made. You couldn’t actually tell these were not real stories… everyone seemed so well practiced it took me a while to sort out what was real and what was role.

Then they looked at me… and suddenly, I wasn’t there. In my place a supremely confident opera-singer, assured that she needed no introduction…

I couldn’t believe it. Even less so when several people later said how good I had been… and even better, how funny. I’d always wanted to be funny…to have people laugh with me… but of course, that takes confidence…

I would have been too small to step out boldly… arrogantly… and make that ad-lib introduction. She wasn’t. Using the mask of her persona allowed me to access and explore hitherto unknown regions in my own; to stretch my boundaries and step into a character completely alien to me gave me a whole new set of skills to draw upon. Which meant I could leave my personal fears and limitations behind. Being cast so far against type had been liberating… and the effects were unexpected and long lasting.

To be typecast… assigned a role that accords well with your own personality, allows exploration of a different type, opening aspects of your own character that you may not have discovered or considered. Being scripted, it allows you to observe yourself… or a facet of yourself…through another’s eyes, in some ways; the eyes of the writer. I have done that too and the results can be powerful and revealing. Either way, few leave such workshops unchanged if they are open to new experiences and are prepared to ‘enter into the spirit’ of the event.

For me, the rise in confidence over the past few years has been both marked and surprising. At the first Silent Eye event, I even sang. In public. And, I am told, in tune. I am still not sure which of those two facts is the more surprising…

In April next year, the workshop will be exploring a more traditional story, drawing upon that of the Green Knight. There will, of course, be some subtle shifts away from the well-known tale in the name of poetic licence and the need to elucidate some of the ideas used within the School. For me there will be no personal surprises where the roles are concerned… I am now one of three who create and present these workshops, and I have a hand in the casting.

For those who attend, there will be no surprise, unscripted bombshells, though there is plenty of scope to personalise each role. Whether the roles are assigned to harmonise or to contrast with the outer personality, each will be assigned with thought and care and it will be my hope that those who attend will take away from the experience as much as I have over the past few years. Whatever happens, it is going to be fun…

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