A few months ago my dear friend and acting mentor, Mrs. Mary Ann Pawlik, invited me to perform a first person drama in the newly restored West Theater in George West, Texas.
I decided to write a new piece for the performance: Joseph, the husband of Mary. As usual, I presented in first person, relating the story from Joseph’s perspective. I wore costume and makeup and recreated his character based on my research. Doing a performance in first person provides something unique for the performer and for the audience. As an actor, I get to imagine what it must have been like for this young, blue-collar worker to try to grasp the fact that the love of his life was going to give birth to God in the flesh.
Similarly, when I present in first person, the audience gets to share in Joseph’s experience in a more personal way than it would if the story were related in the third person. The third provides a more objective, distant point of view. The first person POV, on the other hand, is more subjective. The audience views a first person performance can see the parallels with the character more readily.
And there’s biblical warrant for using the first person POV. The apostle Paul uses the first person POV in several places in his letter to the Romans (2:1-5, 17-29; 3:1-9; 3:27-4:2; 7:7-8:2) to help his readers enter into his persuasive argument more immediately.
So, as far as it goes, the first person is, I believe, an effective tool for an actor. I say “as far as it goes” because the first person is limited to the reflections of an individual. So, the audience tends to hear the first person singular “I” a lot. Hopefully, they infer a connection with a person from whom they are separated by time and space. Still, the first person does build a bridge to the audience.
But it’s in crossing that bridge that the real magic happens.
It’s in the transition from the singular to the plural — when the actor interacts with those he loves after the event. When I came down off the stage after the performance and went out into the lobby — actually, I started greeting people in the aisles — the first person singular became the first person plural. “I” became “we” in the context of a community of friends.
I still had the form (makeup and costume) of Joseph, but I was really, and had always been, Reg.
At this Christmas season, I’m grateful that the Lord Jesus Christ didn’t stay up on the heavenly stage, a divine object of worship.
But not personal.
On that first Christmas morning, the Son of God got personal. He came down into the audience. He lived out his life in the form of a bondservant, but He never stopped being God. He touched us, embraced us, and invites us to experience His life — not vicariously, but in reality. Here. Now.
By His grace we are saved.
By His grace we say, Merry Christmas!.