The gang’s back together for a second run of the play ‘Body=Barrier’. And we had an interesting conversation about what the characters were really up to, and what was their motivations for doing the things that they were up to. These things are always meaningful parts of the rehearsal process, not only because you get to hear what the actors think about the folks that they are playing, but because you get to hear how people are interacting with the character and what they receive. Most of the cast, I thought, would say that the humans in the play were interested in compensating for a Love or a longing of some sort. They didn’t.
Instead, they said that what the characters do is nothing more than an image statement.
Now, I’m not sure whether I agree with them. Angela, for instance, isn’t really that egotistic…but they’re on to something to some degree. After all, Angela has every opportunity to admit to herself that she’s not interested in the same things as her classmates, and just leave it at that. But she always finds herself wanting to go back, simply because she wants the attention of these people.
So many people around us are simply doing things for the image value of the thing – what we Trinis call ‘pips’. We don’t smoke weed because we think that it’s got spiritual value or will heighten an experience of some sort. We smoke it because it’s got some social value to us. We think it helps us have more fun, and connect to a group of people we want to connect to more. we smoke it because of the culture and community it connects us to, regardless of the fact that the community probably doesn’t benefit us in a great many ways…
It’s the same way that young people approach a lot of things in this world today, at least from what my cast and I imagine. What most people don’t realize is that the teenage years are the ones where community and association are incredibly important. In fact, how we make friends in high school determines what we think about ourselves and even who we think we are. And beyond the fact that we know that it’s not healthy, we still do most of our things to fit in with the mindless mob.
When you look at it that way, it’s very likely that everyone’s a victim, isn’t it? The bullies, cool kids, troublemakers…all the cliques you remember making your life difficult in school, they were just trying to get by in a system that is manoeuvred by a person’s social standing in the group. And we’d do anything not to have our lives made difficult. So we try to get with the cool kids, or sometimes we become bullies and troublemakers. We do what they do, and try to do it how they do it, so that we can get where they are.
Angela, the main character of ‘Body=Barrier’, is a complex character. In my heart of hearts, I think that she knows that she has no right in this place, with these people. She’s not into the things that these people are into. But the problem is, the place that she is truly supposed to be isn’t physical. So she’s…trapped there, in a sense, trying to make the best out of a place where she simply does not fit in. And, considering how the human psyche works, everyone needs community, even Angela. So she tries to find it in this place, even though it’s not what she needs. It’s about Angela feeling Loved. But, maybe more importantly, it’s about her feeling as though she’s here, and that it matters that she’s here.
I want the play to break that system playing in young kids’ minds – that they have to do things they’re not ready for or aren’t supposed to do simply because the folks in school are doing it and they seem to be having a good time. Good times don’t determine good things. Good work and good reasons do. And I want all the Angelas that see the play to find good reasons for themselves and their lives and the people they allow into them, not just ‘for de pips’.