Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Adventures in Semantics

The other day, I asked my son if he would like to attend a theatre workshop.

“What’s that?” he asked me.

“Well, you do a lot of fun things, and you get to act in a play,” I replied, feeling slightly guilty about neglecting his extra-curricular activities in the interests of free play.

“I’m already a good actor,” he boasted.

“Really? How come?”

“I can make acting rockets and acting pizzas.”

Right. This is all my fault. In his earliest years, I remember saying something was ‘acting this’ or ‘acting that’, to indicate that which is pretend, or not-real. I thought that sliding from that into ‘acting’ as ‘mimesis’ would be natural and painless. Wrong.

“You remember those ads you see on TV?” I asked him.

He looked blank. Joy and sorrow battled in my bosom. I was glad he didn’t watch enough TV to know almost by instinct, which ads I was talking about; at the same time, I wondered if I was putting him at a disadvantage; which kid these days doesn't knwo what acting is?!

“Like, when you see the ads for biscuits or chewing gum, after Tom and Jerry.”

Ah. Light shines.

“You know the kids in those ads? They’re your age, pretty much, and they’re acting. Someone tells them, eat this and look very happy, and they do it, even though they might not actually be feeling very happy.

“Or someone asks a boy to run and act as if he trips and falls. And even though there was nothing to make him trip, he acted as if something made him trip. You understand?”

He lay silent while digesting this significant difference between what was just pretend play (using an empty pichkari as an ‘acting-rocket’) and what was a pretence that was no different from ‘real’. In his mind, the play he indulged in was clearly make-believe. The word ‘acting’ stood in for something without any blurring of categories (unlike an acting Prime Minister, who stands in for the real thing, in very real ways!).
On the other hand, ‘acting’ in a play, or being a part of a theatre workshop, was fraught with much danger. If someone was supposed to ‘act’ sad, and managed to look like they were about to cry, how could he not be sad? How come the feeling in the one who watches this ‘acting’ is also so real?

I don't know when or how he will figure this out, but for now, he is very clear that theatre is not for him.


The Mad Momma said...

There is hope for my son yet! People keep asking me how much longer I will keep him ignorant of tv! may i link this post up?!

tangerine said...

its always a tough one isn't it? Should you keep kids away from TV so that they can do more stimulating things like reading, playing or even going to theatre workshops! Or should they watch some of it so that they are not complete misfits at school and know waht their peers are talking about. Keeping them away from Tv might only breed resentment against you as a parent.

Space Bar said...

TMM: Link away! You don't need to ask!

Tangerine: If the keeping away is enforced, then naturally it will breed resentment at a later age. I think the thing is to make sure that when they're amenable to such things, they develop other habits!