Essay | The Actor as Eternal Child

Noam Meiri, The Actor as Eternal Child – The Role of Play in the Training of Actors in Emilia Perroni, Ed. Play: Psychoanalytic Perspectives, Survival and Human Development. Routledge, 2013

The Actor’s Journey to the Childlike State | Physical Theater and the Art of Storytelling | Epilogue: A Prince in a Donkey’s Skin


In order to be a good artist, the actor should observe the dialogue he has with himself and with life around him. In order to be able to “put himself” on stage in a live, flowing state, here and now, so that he can live characters and situations foreign to him, so that he can effortlessly and freely change at any given moment, fully believing in his imagination and internal world, in a way that can carry the audience away to an illusion of real and fictional reality for a short while, he should be able to relate to a state that has been within him from the start, beyond the screens of his personality and the layers of his soul: the eternal child. The eternal child is the allegedly free character, which each of us surely remembers from our early childhood, whenever we played and identified with our games, when the world around us was insignificant.
It is no coincidence that the distinguished teacher Phillipe Gaulier, a student of Jacques Lecoq in Paris and owner of the Phillipe Gaulier Acting School in London instructs the actor right at the beginning of his training in a course known in French as Le Jeu (The game). The aim of the course is to bring the students together again to their childhood games, to remind them of the childlike stage within them and to realize the close relationship between the quality of a child’s game, of the childlike stage, and the quality in the acting in the theater.
Yet, what are those qualities found in a child’s play, which, when internalized by the actor, improve his acting, enabling him to professionalize and carry out the required characteristics? One quality is the “danger” found in certain areas of the acting world. The essence of this component of danger is the experience of the unknown, a celebration of the moment without knowing what the next moment holds, and taking the risk we know is not real. We enjoy taking a risk or watching another take it in a kind of simulation of vacillation between desires, feelings, emotions and urges. For example, the joy of playing tag increase the more we tease the child who is “It,” before he catches us. Also the joy of playing “Red Light Green Light” will increase the more we extend the aspect of waiting, with the danger involved, focusing on the delay, not running immediately to touch the person standing with his back to us.
In this game, the aim is known, therefore, the essence of the game, as well as the essence of the pleasure, is related to a journey, to the route and the adventure to which the game takes us. The pleasure will increase as we introduce the witch to the child in a scarier way. He will be startled and his alarm will turn into laughter, as he knows it is a matter of make believe in the play, after which he will ask us straight away to startle him again. We want to take as many sweet little risks as possible. In order to achieve this, certain conditions have to obtain: there must be maximal awareness, alertness, and the ability to be in a state of tactical choice; we must have an aim and a clear will, with attention to the conditions of the road. Above all these there is pleasure in the act of acting.
When we hear a story or watch a play, we want the actor to lead the character to risk-taking, to engage the object that constitutes an impediment and barrier and face the conflict. We want to be with the actor at any given moment in the unexpected journey of the character, in expressing the authentic feelings that come up during the journey. Unlike the character, we would like the actor, who plays Othello and kills Desdemona, to enjoy the meandering journey of jealousy including the moment of murder. The pleasure of the actor during his performance is an important component in the pleasure of the audience and its satisfaction as an observer, just as much as the enjoyment is an important factor in creating the actor-audience dialogue.
Another factor in training the actor is the naiveté of the childlike play consisting of the ability to discover something new without initial judgment and without self criticism, the ability to accept and absorb a new item, a new situation before reacting, the ability to listen totally, with all our body, an ability that also enables to move from one emotional state to another, in no time.
When we take a toy from a little child he will be angry and cry, however, the crying will quickly turn into happiness if we offer him a more attractive and intriguing alternative – right away. Such a spontaneous transition, with no delay between situations is important for the actor too, a transition well-defined in the term Respond, the taking and the giving, moving from one feeling to another, from one emotion to another, with no judgment or inhibiting thought.
The actor should avoid getting attached to a feeling that accompanied a reality gone by, and he should be fully open to discover a new moment, to say “yes” to propositions of his partners in acting, to listen to the flow, to the “here and now,” words sacred to the theater.
Arlecchino, hero of the commedia dell’arte receives every new item addressed to him in a total way. When Capitano, the military man, the boastful officer in the ommedia dell’arte tells him: “Arlecchino! Go to war!”, Arlecchino does hesitate. He enlists believing in the urgent situation, running to war like a fanatic patriot without arguing over whether or not the war is justified and without considering the mortal danger hovering above his head. Only later, when he stops for a moment and observes his actions, will he be able to listen to hesitation and fear.
A third factor is investigation. At certain ages, immersed in natural curiosity, the child can spend a long time playing by himself without getting bored. A young drama student will not hesitate to declare promptly that the lesson is boring or that he already knows the exercise, as he already did it a year earlier. The child, unlike the actor, will want to hear the story again and again. Only at the end of an extended process will the drama student realize that it is his responsibility not to get bored and to consent to undergoing the journey each time anew, as if he did not know it from the past.
This responsibility is important both in the rehearsal period, when the student must investigate the dramatic situation and the character’s behavior, and every evening on stage, when he has to discover his character anew each time, to be curious about this encounter, which takes place every time afresh at another time, in a different place, before a different audience.
A fourth factor is the unmediated connection between feeling and its expression. A baby does not doubt his gut feeling and immediately expresses his feelings and emotions. He makes sounds from his stomach when something hurts or when he is hungry. Later the child learns to think before reacting, to judge and criticize the other and himself and to delay the expression or feeling, knowing that he should behave well, speakl politely, not shout and cry, and then get what he wants.
However, during play, the child is completely absorbed in the world of fiction and play grips his whole body. He enjoys sharing his feelings in the game, he lets them lead him, and he gives them full expression in his actions out of belief in the truth of his emotions and feelings. For the audience to be able to identify and follow the actor, the latter must believe in the emotional world that awakens in him while acting.


The Actor’s Journey to the Childlike State

Many techniques enable the actor to connect to the childlike state within him in a very conscious slow process. One technique is to create a kindergarten simulation based on improvisation. In a guided imagery format, of a time machine sending the participants back in time, the actors are led on a journey to their childhood. In a space defined as the kindergarten, the actors experience the childlike situation.
They are happy to play, to act, to have relationships as children. They enjoy going wild in the mud, in the rain, or in the kindergarten itself. They like fighting, being startled, loving, feeling jealous, etc. This exercise creates a deep and emotional experience for them. They are excited about the way they managed so quickly let go of the adult in them and to devote themselves to the liberating childlike experience.
Another technique is the use of the Alexander method. Most acting schools in Europe offer lessons in this method early in the training. Much time is required for the drama student to internalize the connection between this method, which is usually perceived as a method of treating back problems, and the acting profession. However, the Alexander method offers much beyond that.
It grants meaning to managing and organizing life on the gentle level of remedial thinking, improving the delicate equilibrium of the body, and creating ideal conditions for listening, self-observation, both external and internal, which leads to reaction, to action from choice and not out of past patterns that accompany us and respond to reality indiscriminately.
If we observe a three or four year old child, sitting and playing or rising from the floor and sitting down again by turns, we notice that he fulfills all the characteristics of the Alexander method: He sits the perfect Alexander manner with the right balance, poise, between the head, the face, the free neck, and the long wide back. This situation enables the child to connect his feelings, sensations and actions, the sounds he makes, his emotional expressions and his wishes – a situation that enables him to be fully himself, in optimal flow, while observing, investigating and acting.
As the years go by, the maturing process focuses on the aim and not the journey: Everything has to be done fast with an impressive result, one needs quickly to obtain the highest mark as possible. In this process you become more “endgaining” (as it is known in the Alexander method), instead of stopping to discover and listening for a moment, to here and now.
If we take another look at the game of “Red Light Green Light,” we notice that while one who is “It” turns around quickly and tries to catch the one who moves a little from his place, so he can order him to go back to the starting point, the other participants stand motionless, alert, exuberant and well-attentive to their bodies so as not to fail. Their eyes shine and look straight ahead, filled with the joy of play. The Alexander method calls this situation “inhibition” and in the theater it is known as “fix point.”
We are speaking of a time unit of alertness and listening to ourselves, to our partner, the place, the space that surrounds us, and the audience. It is a unique moment that ignites our imagination as well as the audience’s, a moment of anticipation for things to come, both on the actor’s part as well as the audience’s, the moment in which we experience the unknown of what is to come.
Another technique is related to the time factor, using short term tasks such as an exercise where groups of three or four actors get a task which they must perform in two to three minutes. One possible task is to create a single imaginary animal composed of all the group members. The short time increases the level of pleasure, and in the course of the game impressive physical group-structures are created, which hat are used as a basis for more advanced work on analysis of the use of body language and analysis of movement in space. At times, for comparison, I do not impose a time limit on the performance of the first task. Then the tendency to sit and raise general ideas increases, as each of the group members tries to convince the others why someone’s idea is better than the others, and instead of acting, the group indulges in talking about doing.
In a version of another game, “musical chairs,” the loser, the one who remains without a chair when the music stops, can save himself only if he immediately changes into an animal and moves, providing enjoyment to the others. Once the loser stops the process and starts thinking about which animal to choose and how he can move to save himself, he is bound to fail, a disruption of the flow occurs. If the loser agrees to take advantage of his enthusiasm and his pleasure of the game quickly, rapidly changing without self-criticism (agreeing to play the fool), the whole group, as well as he, will delight in his ability to fool around.
Another promising technique is the use of masks. Beyond the power the mask conveys on stage, it has a great power for the actor. Its main aim is to lose one’s head. The mask is larger than us. It has a sweeping, magic, ritual power. It helps us lose our heads for the sake of the world of urges in us, the secret world of great emotions, of desires that will lead to actions that will surprise us retroactively.
The use of masks enables the actor to express the impulses emerging from within him in a direct manner. The pleasure of acting with a mask creates and enhances the actor’s belief in his internal world, improves his creative imagination and enables him to hold a theatrical celebration with his partners on stage. An example of that can be seen in the commedia delle’arte, from the golden age of the theater, through its uses of masks.
Even the use of neutral masks, whole and symmetrical ones without any expression, will help the actor deeply experience the joy of acting.
These techniques and others are meant to remind the actor of his childlike qualities , as part of his basic training, so that he will believe in them and to agree to believe that all the information and material necessary for acting are already within him. All he must do is listen to them and trust his gut feelings. Yet, as opposed to the childlike state, the actor must, using his abilities as an adult, identify these qualities, select and investigate them.
At an advanced stage of his training as an actor, the student must accept responsibility for the development of the dramatic structure, for the use and aesthetic extraction of his body and of the space surrounding him. He should learn how to use emotional energies and his urges as a source of movement and action. He should investigate his movement, utilize the potential it contains, regulate the energies, and find the exact visual expression for his feeling of his body and in space. All this is done in order to form a dramatic process and construct a meaningful story.
There are several techniques that bring the student to such competence. In one exercise the student has to imagine someone standing behind him, ordering him to give her all his money: How should he react? There are several options. He could remain in place. He could turn just his head toward the aggressor. He could turn his head and the top half of his body. He could add a raising of his right hand in a movement of warning. He could turn all his body towards the attacker and then lift his arm slowly, waving its full length in the air towards the attacker. He could walk two steps backward, turn around, slowly walk two steps, and then run away quickly.
There are many other options: For example, turn around quickly walk quickly two steps and then run away slowly, walk in a straight line to the exit door, move in an indirect way, jump the way or crawl it, stop in the middle and more.
Rudolf Laban, a father of modern dance, created a choreographic script: a detailed and complex sketch of the kinds of movement in space. The structure includes analysis of the dancer’s personal directions in space – up, down, to the sides, diagonally – as well as quantity of movements – light or heavy, direct or indirect, slow or fast.
Each choice will form and express a different feeling, a different meaning and a different story. The actor analyzing his movement will thus create an intriguing investigation of the relationship between his internal world and the language he chooses to express himself on stage.
The awareness of analyzing the movement, for example, enables the actor to continue investigating the initial urge, examining the dramatic potential within, as well as to listen to the feelings that arise in him as a result of such an analysis. Analysis of the movement obviously does not narrow down just to useful actions but to any physical expression the actor uses to convey his feelings and intentions. The actor is welcome to play with all these components at his leisure.

THe Actor as an Eternal Child

Physical Theater and the Art of Storytelling

My work in recent years has focused in recent years on the development of the physical theater and the art of storytelling. My starting point is our need and natural desire to tell a story and to listen, focusing on the actor as a performer and as the central pivot of the theatrical piece, while fulfilling his unique physical qualities and abilities as a human being.
We are all natural born storytellers. We all relate to each other through stories. No one teaches us how to tell a story yet we do it wonderfully – moving from one feeling to another, from one moment to another, from one place to another. For example, a man comes home and says: “Don’t ask what happened at work today. I walked into the office and she was standing there. By the window. She was holding a letter and said: ‘Get out!’ I stood there. She crumpled the letter slowly, threw it on the floor and left. She stood by the doorway, turned her head towards me and left. I left the office and drove to the beach. (Pause). I approached the water. (Pause). A hand touched my shoulder. (Pause). I turned my head. She was standing there with the letter”.
Any one listener or the reader has already constructed in his or her imagination the beach and the shoreline. Waiting attentively to find out who touched the shoulder. We make up a picture in our imagination and anticipate what is to come. In fact, we are engaging in a dialogue with the storyteller as well as with the story.
The same dialogue will continue to be relevant when we bring the story to the stage. In creating a story for the stage one should focus on the relationship between the storyteller, the story and the audience. The audience is a significant partner in the dialogue. The story happened there and then, whereas the renewed encounter with the story in the presence of the audience is in the here and now.
The storyteller is always the main character of the story, even if the story is not his or her personal one. Even if the storyteller tells us about Little Red Riding Hood, she has to turn to the Little Red Riding Hood of the storyteller. There lies the challenge for the storyteller: she must nurture herself through her internal world with her feelings, emotions, desires and wishes in order to give them expression and to present them to the audience. The mask he wears in such a case is very transparent, as there is no character behind which she may hide. Another challenge facing the storyteller is the “empty space,” a term coined by Peter Brook in his book of that name (Brook, 1991). The starting point for the storyteller is that she is by herself on stage without props or setting. The use of empty space presumes that the creators and the audience are constantly aware that the reference is to theater, and they agree to accept this illusion. As a result, the actor has more freedom in his or her way of expression.
He can find his stage language while using his voice, his body and his movements. He can create complex physical stage images dynamically while there is no setting or any other technical encumbrance on the stage. This creates a vast reservoir for the creative imagination of the actor.
In order to reach that reservoir, the actor should undergo an intensive period of rehearsal in order to find his special way to present his story. He should examine every given moment in the story and decide how to present it. Sometimes he will choose a word to convey his meaning, while other times he will choose a physical gesture. This style also creates a broad gateway to the audience’s imagination, completes the situation in his mind and gets carried away to the flow of feelings as a reaction to the stimulation he receives on stage. Thus an active audience is created within the dialogue that it itself maintains with its internal world.
In order to assist a storyteller listen to his internal world while he constructs a story for the performance, he may use an exercise that takes him back to his childhood. In his imagination, the actor must return to his childhood home at the age of six with a video camera sharing the pictures that come up in his mind with his peers. This exercise illustrates and strengthens the belief in the dramatic force inherent in small details, those little moments of life, and their ability to awaken authentic feelings and emotions in the presence of the audience, thus constituting an additional stage in the actor’s training to listen to his internal world and use it when he encounters a new story.
At this point many actors maintain that they don’t remember details. However, the more they let go of their concentrated thinking and agree to look at the picture forming in their imagination and wait in a state of inactivity, the more details will emerge into the picture. The storyteller usually surprises himself with the amount of details. When a certain detail comes up, we notice a reaction that repeats itself – the storyteller will smile and say, for example: “I can see my first grade notebook on the desk.”
His body language has already exposed the quality of his dialogue with place and time before thought changes it into the spoken word. This phenomenon grows stronger when the student is asked to walk around and move his hand along the items in his childhood bedroom. This action, which reinforces the body-mind relationship, conveys more information to the audience. The actor’s responsibility is to discover and identify the feeling, so that he can choose and give it some expression on the stage.
Now the actor should tell a story about something that happened at that time, and include an additional character. “And then Mom said: Get out of the room right away!” says the actor. And what did she do when she said what she said? Did she wave her hand? Did she turn around and leave the room quickly? Slowly? Did she stop at the doorway and only turn her head once again? The storyteller must apply the new information immediately, listening to his feelings and creating a dramatic stage construction.
In this gradual process, the storyteller experiences and recognizes the energies, the urges, the feelings, the emotions, the intentions and the actions that he will summon for himself with his body. We are not always aware of the hidden intentions behind the information that our body allows us; however, if we don’t listen to ourselves, if we don’t believe in our honesty and our innocence, we will not succeed in creating a real human dialogue with the audience.
The basic training of the actor is meant to remind him of those qualities and to allow him to listen to them, to believe that he has always had them, believing that all the information and materials for acting exist in his body, within him. He must listen to them and trust his gut-feelings.
With the help of his adult thoughts , he is required to identify, select and investigate. Any piece of information he receives will stimulate acting material within him and will drive him into action. The action, from which the word “actor” derives, is the basis of acting, flowing and life.


Epilogue: A Prince in a Donkey’s Skin

I would like to conclude with a personal note and a story, in an adaptation I made to a story of the Brothers Grimm (415:1994) “Little Donkey” or The Prince in a Donkey’s Skin.” This story, which wonderfully portrays the qualities of the childlike state as they disperse across an entire life-story, is a source of inspiration for me in my creative process. I always retell it again and again with every new encounter with a group of children. Through it, I have again met the child within me and through it I have learned about myself. Here is the story…

“The Prince in a Donkey’s Skin”

Once upon a time, many years ago in a far away country, there was a king and a queen. The king and the queen had houses and castles, money, gold and jewelry. One thing they did not have was a child. Every night the queen would kneel by the bed and pray: “Please Lord, let me have just one little child, and that’s it.” A year passed by and nothing happened. “Please Lord, what am I asking you for?”
Another year passed by and still nothing happened. One night, the queen woke up startled. Suddenly she felt tickles in her stomach which started swelling quickly. There was no doubt. Her wish was fulfilled. The queen was expecting a boy or a girl. After nine months, the miracle took place: A son was born to the queen and king.
“We have a new prince! The kingdom has an heir,” the word spread throughout the castle. All the men of the castle hurried and crowded in to see the newborn. The queen led the parade while dancing and prancing at its head. Everyone went into the baby’s room. The queen bent over the crib. Everyone behind her waited excitedly. Suddenly she noticed that her tiny baby had long ears. When she lifted the blanket she discovered that it had a tail. The queen let out a scream. All the people who had gathered ran for their lives. The queen was left alone. She realized that she hadn’t given birth to a normal baby. She had had a donkey! A little donkey!
That very evening she decided that she wasn’t willing to raise a donkey in the castle, let alone as her son!… She would take the creature and abandon him in the forest. At night, she sneaked discreetly to the baby’s room, took him out of his crib and started making her way into the gloomy forest. Suddenly, as she was standing at the doorway of the castle, a scream was heard: “What are you doing? It’s our son! It’s our prince! This is what we have.. He, and only he, is going to be the king after me!” The queen was trembling. She had no choice and with the accompaniment of the king she returned the donkey to the castle.
The king also gave him the name: Little Donkey. The queen removed all mirrors from the rooms and halls. She ordered the castle’s men not to say a word. Little Donkey grew up and became a wonderful donkey. Beautiful long white ears. A happy wagging tail. He was also smart and talented. He didn’t know his secret. One day he asked his parents, the king and queen, to teach him to play the accordion. After much consultation, they invited the best known accordion teacher.
The teacher arrived, walked into the donkey’s room. He saw the sight, left quickly, and whispered: “Who ever heard of a donkey playing the accordion? Am I to teach a donkey to play the accordion?” He packed his bags and fled. Little Donkey was appalled. He went into his room and cried. When he calmed down a little, a thought came to his mind: “If no one is willing to teach me to play, I will learn by myself.” He ran to the red box where a little accordion was ready, placed it on his shoulders and started to play, slowly. Days passed, and a year passed, until Little Donkey became the best player in the kingdom.
One day, Little Donkey went out for a walk in the forest near the castle. He reached the river and stopped. He bent down to drink. He looked at the water and shouted: “What’s this? Why do I have such long ears? And why do I have a tail? Why? Why aren’t I like everybody else?” No one dared answer. No one knew. Not even the king or the queen.
Little Donkey ran to his room. That same night he made a decision. The next morning he left his parents: “I’m leaving the castle. I’m going on a journey. I don’t know when I’ll be back if at all.” His royal parents had no choice. They kissed him goodbye and gave him the accordion as a present. He put it on his back and went into the wide world. He wandered for days and weeks. He crossed forests and mountains, until he reached the big sea. He put the accordion on his back and crossed the water. Little Donkey arrived in a new country. Unknown. He saw its kingdom’s castle from afar. He came close to the castle gates and called: “Let me in please.”
“Let me in please. I’m the son of a king from a faraway country.”
A guard looked out, saw the sight, and shouted: “A king’s son… But you’re a donkey!”
“I am a donkey son of a king.”
The guard laughed: “There’s no entrance for donkeys here.”
Little Donkey sat down by the wall, lowered his ears and cried. He took the accordion out of the red box and started playing, sad melancholy sounds. The sounds, so beautiful, climbed up above the wall until they descended upon the castle’s yard. The sound made their way along the castle’s paths until they reached the king’s ears. The king listened and asked: “Who’s playing the accordion so beautifully?” “Your Majesty, there is a donkey outside the castle that’s playing the accordion. In accordance with the law, I did not let him in.”
“I order you to bring the donkey here at once!” said the king.
Little Donkey was led to the king. He entered, bowed a deep bow and said: “Please, let me stay one night in the castle so that I can rest and continue on my way tomorrow. I promise not to leave my room until I leave.”
“And I,” said the king, “am asking you to play.”
With fear and trepidation, Little Donkey pulled out the accordion from the red box and started playing. The music was beautiful, so soft and delicate. The king listened. The king was so impressed and excited that when Little Donkey finished he said: “I will fulfill your wish on one condition, that tomorrow morning, before you leave the castle, you return to me so that I may hear you play the accordion once again.” Little Donkey promised.
The next day when appearing in front of the king again, he played…and played. The king couldn’t control himself and he shouted: “Little Donkey, I want you to stay in my castle with me. I want you to be my personal musician.” Little donkey kept quiet for a long minute and then said: “I agree. I’ll stay! But promise me, please, when I want to leave, you won’t stop me.” “I promise,” said the king, and so Little Donkey stayed with the king and played every night before bedtime. And the king was ever so happy.
Year after went by. Many years passed, until one day when Little Donkey resumed playing, very late at night, he spoke to the king, saying: “Your Highness, it’s time I left for my journey.”
The king called out: “Please stay!” “You promised me that when I wanted to go, you wouldn’t stop me,” said Little Donkey. “I’m asking you to stay,” said the king. “I promise I’ll give you whatever you want! Please stay!” Little Donkey insisted and so did the king: “I’ve become so attached to you, I love you so much. Please stay.” Little Donkey kept silent.
“If you stay,” said the king, “I’ll give you houses and a castle, silver, gold and jewelry. I’ll give you whatever you want!” Little Donkey still kept quiet, asked to be let out to his room for a moment and promised he would return immediately. Upon returning he said: “I will stay if you let me have your daughter as my wife.” Now the king also kept quiet. Suddenly he asked to have his daughter be brought into the hall. The princess came in and when she heard the news, she became frightened and ran away. Little Donkey ran after her.
Both of them ran up the stairs till the princess fell and started to cry. Little Donkey bent down and gently held her hand. She didn’t do a thing. Little Donkey brought her hand closer and gave her a kiss. That very moment the donkey’s skin vanished as if it had never been.
A handsome prince now faced the princess. Little Donkey led the princess to the castle. The next day the wedding was announced. After the wedding Little Donkey took the princess and returned to his parents’ castle. A big celebration took place. When the old king died, Little Donkey became king in his parents’ kingdom. The princess became queen and they have lived happily ever after.
Like most children, Little Donkey came into this world as a result of his parents’ yearning. He was given to them as a priceless gift. The queen refused to accept this gift. Until he discovered he was a donkey, Little Donkey had no problem. He was a happy donkey. From the moment of discovery the donkey’s skin became a problem for him. He was forced to contend with the hard distress by himself. No one dared say a thing. Little Donkey, having a strong affinity to life, to the joy of life – being a competent musician – decided to leave on this journey of maturity by himself.
The light at the end of the tunnel is played by the role of the king, who chooses to let him into the castle, even though he is a donkey. The king is enchanted by his playing and his soul and falls in love with him. Little Donkey receives love and affection and stays in the kingdom for many years. When he feels he has completed this stage of life and wishes to leave, he faces a problem yet again. He wants to continue investigating his life, set a new goal, and taste more in his journey. He will not remain in the kingdom just because the king wants it, so he dares make a bold request, and he wins. Only then does he feel the wish to return to his parents’ home. He is loyal to his journey, he is not angry at anybody and does not ask for revenge. He is now the king of the whole kingdom.
For many years I did not stop and ask myself what there was in that story that raises such strong feelings in me, what is there that extracts the best out of me and provokes such strong reactions from the audience (I sometimes meet elderly people who remind me of the story they heard, many years before).
The first insight I had took place seven years ago, when I invited my then psychologist, to watch my story telling performance. He later told me that the donkey’s mask granted me complete freedom to hold an intimate and authentic dialogue between myself and Little Donkey’s story, to be in a wonderful flow between my internal world and the theatrical language that I created on stage.
Later in the treatment I realized that the donkey was me. We are all donkeys, we are all sentenced, we all judge ourselves and others. When I tell the story, each listener meets the donkey within, what is different, unique, and essential within us, which is not always self-evident to the environment.
As we accept the donkey within us, as soon as we listen to this donkey, the more we encourage a child or any person, young or old, the actor – but not just an actor – to love the donkey inside him, to embrace him and not judge, we will be more accepting of the child within us and we will become more creative toward life around us, as well as to ourselves.