Monday, February 23, 2004

CURTAIN CALL

With four curtain calls this week and eight shows remaining, the words of Judge Taylor in "To Kill a Mockingbird" haunt me throughout the day and may even be the cause of my recent insomnia. My supporting role in the Muskegon Civic Theatre production carries a minimal line load, but includes an interesting remark as act one draws to a conclusion: "People generally see what they look for and hear what they listen for."

I understand that educated people, including judges, don't like to end sentences with a preposition; however, prescriptive grammar not only causes grief in the English language but headaches for meaningful theater. So, now that we know that Judge Taylor will never spend a night in jail for his failure to keep the prepositions with their object nouns together, "...let's get on."

In other words, it appears that people generally determine their reality based upon what they look for and what they listen for. Think about that for a moment! Isn't that closely related to the definition of prejudice? Do our preconceptions taint any possibility of clear focus? Wouldn't it be better if we postponed judgement to enable knowledge, truth, and justice?

I see too many people approach life with their minds already made up--about themselves, about issues, about others. Such prejudicial mentality only impairs our individual and societal potential. We need to encourage and maintain life-long learning attitudes. As for me, I'm about to complete a very meaningful "graduate class" with some 30 students of varying ages and ethnicity.

Few plays demand casting with race as a primary filter. However, few plays confront the uncomfortable reality of racism and prejudice as well as "To Kill a Mockingbird." I've truly enjoyed performing with an amazing ensemble for nearly eight weeks. Because of these talented actors and actresses, I have a greater self-awareness of my own prejudices and a heightened awareness of how pervasive, subtle, and hurtful discrimination can be.

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