I have spent a large part of my life behind the scenes. That’s the job: waiting for him to come on stage. Watch the comrades spin their charade, and then, at the appointed time, enter the circle. Strange place, behind the scenes: a unionized technician in black jeans and shirt rubs shoulders with an 18th century innkeepere, or one junkie of XXIe. The backstage of the theater is where time slides; where time can play, because there is play, space, “louse”…
Posted at 9:00 a.m.
The time spent behind the scenes comes close to my experience of recurring holidays, which are like folds in the year: Christmas, this Sunday, or the birthday of such and such. Behind the scenes there is a certain apprehension, happy or less happy, which resembles the approach of the holidays. I have often wondered why the Christmas party, for example, was the cause of some anxiety. Perhaps this celebration, even stripped of its cultural content, still summons “another time”. A time that escapes that, interminable, of work, of commerce, of the ordinary thread of our lives; a suspended time where something suddenly gets stuck. There must be something out there, on the garden side, which reminds us that this life is an incomprehensible miracle, filled with chance; that the rest of the year is a diversion. In other words, it started and it will… end? When you suddenly discover that you are no longer a teenager, because the nephews and nieces have become one; that nieces are mothers in turn and that ancestors are dead; that these recurring dates are in fact thresholds, beginnings and endings of acts, the tragic nature of life is suddenly revealed, between two Celebration Loto-Québec advertisements.
There is in the slowing down of the holiday, of Sunday, of Christmas morning, a kernel of silence. And I touch it with my finger in these “ritual” meetings. This is what, paradoxically, the performance of the theater suggests: the usual calculations that distribute our time are suspended (if the show is good!); there is an autonomous time of the theater which brings out, precisely, the fleeting nature… of time. The theater and its apparatus are full of conventions, habits, superstitions, some from a distant tradition, others more recent, or specific to certain types of theatre. All seem to call for the coming of a time freed of ordinary time, as if one had to walk on tiptoe so as not to frighten him. The tense silence behind the scenes, the consent of the room. Even in its most thunderous, exploding, brutal forms, the theater arouses this delicate expectation, as if a wild cat could turn the corner of the setting, suddenly emerge from the stands: a time at once unheard, amazing… but coming at exactly eight o’clock in the evening.
Like parties, theater is the daughter of repetition. Among other vaguely ritualistic practices, there is all this text learned by heart, and obsessively revised by actors haunted by the black hole. The text repeated 100 times becomes like a boardwalk in the unstable ground of memory. As difficult as it is to remember the words, all the words (and I lost a lot in learning my scores!), the text becomes, with use, a chosen landscape that we find with ever more nuances; a house in his memory to inhabit the world. Curiously, rote learning was frowned upon when I was a young student; it was considered a weakness of pedagogy, an outdated pedagogy. As an actor, I had no choice but to sink into this tedious work, learning hundreds of pages by heart at a time. I found there another way of understanding the world; an understanding that is more intensive than extensive: that is to say, making the world familiar by fixing it (finally!) for a time in the heart and the memory.
There’s nothing magical about that, everyone can experience it: learning a text by heart, a poem for example, means changing one’s relationship to time, uniting with it, if only moment. Two-three verses before going to bed is an accessible prescription.
The day after a party, I find myself chewing over old lines I learned years ago. In these too slow Sundays when trade time seems out of breath, there are still kernels of silence where we can ask with Vladimir :
“Did I sleep while the others suffered? Am I sleeping right now? » 1
1. Waiting for Godot, S. Beckett, Ed. From Midnight, Paris, 1952.