Monday, December 04, 2017

Acting plural

Had a wonderful moment in Theorizing Religion today - not just a moment, a class which afforded wonderful moments. In last Wednesday's class we'd poked and prodded the charming and deceptively clear arguments about religious exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism, and I thought we might have a little more discussion in us. Did we ever! "I've never met a real pluralist," one student had written in a response. "How can anyone not be a pluralist?" another had asked. "Can anyone say they think their views are true but incomplete, and that others have truths they'll never be able fully to assimilate, and really mean it?" I added. So off we went.

One moment which I particularly relished came from R, a student in the Theater BFA program, responding to the Lang cliché that "everyone has their own truth." I rail against that every year, but usually nobody agrees with me. R, however, took it and ran with it. If it can't conflict with what others believe it's not truth, just opinion, he said. R told us this was a point stressed by his acting teachers. Characters don't have "their own truth," not if they're well acted. The actor's job is to let the character live the truth.

Now doesn't that throw things for a lovely loop! I told R after class this recalled a discussion we had in "Theater & Religion" years ago about whether belief is an inner thing or observable. I remember getting excited about how the idea of "believable" performance complicated the idea that one's beliefs were entirely private and could be known by noone outside. But none of the actors in the class took me up on that. I have a sense R, and his teachers, might. Is the practice of acting a pluralism, then?

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