“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!).
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.