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Uninhibited's picture

I think that there are very important similarities in the ways in which actors “perform” and the ways in which we “perform.” Rigney’s reading made me think about the various social roles that we play and the ways in which we are liberated or constrained by them.  Which of the roles we play are assigned to us by society and which do we choose. Even in “choosing” social roles how much agency do we really have?  I wrote in my journal about the masks that we wear in order to perform whichever roles we need to perform, and about how some may see wearing those masks as constraining, but that sometimes wearing masks is liberating. I see some asks and “roles” as coping strategies, strategies used mostly by marginalized people to navigate these systems and this society.

This also has me thinking about how much emphasizes Rigney placed on the relationship between the actor and the audience. Even going as far as saying that if there’s no audience there’s no play. This means that the role that the actor plays is just as much the responsibility of the actor as it is the responsibility of the audience. For example, in theater, if the audience does not let the author play their role by interrupting, then the actor cannot perform his or her role. This goes even further in noting that when scripting plays, it is important to have the audience in mind to make that people will come, enjoy it, and that more people will come. As a result of this, the actor’s role is very dependent on the audience. Here we can make a connection to real life, by comparing how our own social roles are influenced by those around us: our families, friends, coworkers, and teachers.  This can even be applied to the criminal justice system, in which we expect prisoners to fit a certain criteria, play a certain role, and that’s how we determine how they should be treated. I think that this is the reason why it was so difficult for me to enter the prison on the first day, because the women are just like us. They don’t fit the “prisoner” or “criminal” role in my mind. They don’t look scary or untrustworthy. So what happens when people don’t play the role that we’ve set out for them to play, but we still constrain them within those walls?

Last week during our first session, a woman spoke about how she liked the fact that Howard Zer’s book did not focus on the crimes committed by the people in the book. Instead, the book was focused on their own narratives about life in prison. I think that this was her way of saying the role of prisoner is too loud, that we give it too much weight. I think that woman, meant to say that those people play other roles too. They are brothers, aunts, mothers, friends, mentors, workers.  This is where I think that theater and life diverge, because in theater actors tend to play one role during the entire play. For us, we play multiple roles every day, maybe even multiple roles at the same time. We want some to be heard more than others.