The players in Act Two are not the same people as they were in Act One. The dynamic force of life pushes us into changing ourselves into new characters. But it isn’t an unstoppable force. We are free to fight against it and we often do, choosing to hold on to our Act One notions of how the play should be running. What happens when we cast the youthful ingenue of Act One into the starring role in Act Two?
I see varying permutations of this concept around me. My mind–and I’m sure I’m not alone–usually goes straight to the high school football hero or cheerleader who never saw a way to surpass their former glory, or the one acquaintance who just doesn’t let go of the fashions or the activities of a former heyday, but there’s a more dangerous, more insidious side to not letting go of that Act One mindset that lives internally, and that can do more damage than a tired anecdote that everyone’s heard before, or an unfortunate taste in retro fashions. It’s the mindset of the Act One lead that does the most damage when carried over into life’s Act Two. Maintaining an outlook in Act One turns very quickly into Act Two’s naivete, stubbornness, or calcification…and can become very easily a Fatal Flaw.
In dramatic structure, Act Two is where the bulk of the story’s change takes place. A static lead is ill-equipped to handle the tides of a changing world. Act Two is where experience starts to count. We’ve had plenty of opportunities for “teachable moments” and it’s time, in Act Two, that we are expected to demonstrate that we have indeed learned from them. The scenery changes, and the gracious sets of the first act have given way to the action sets. Now is when we learn that we interact with the scenery–we shape it and relate to it that changes the setting on the stage according to our own stories, and it’s us that has to do the shaping.
What are you doing to shape your stage?