Joey: It was amazing. Lola was the most hilarious character ever. Oh and the boxing match, I'm really surprised they pulled it off.
Anna: You mean the use of slow-motion, and somebody's leg as part of the set?
Joey: Yes! It was so creative and resourceful. It's the kind of things you don't have to think about for a TV show, but critical for a play.
Anna: It's surprising what limitations can bring out of good writers.
Joey: Yeah. Hey aren't you writing a play yourself, Anna?
Anna: Oh, I don't know. I haven't gotten very far.
Joey: What is it about?
Anna: Well, the scenario is this: a man professes his undying love to a woman. Nothing unusual for plays. But then, he talks about how the love is so special, so beyond this world. He's in love with her soul, whatever that is. She might chuckle a little, maybe, and speak of how little either of them knows about souls.
Anna: Then during the intermission, the announcer would tell the audience that the female lead actor had a medical emergency, and that her understudy will perform the rest of the play.
Joey: That's... interesting.
Anna: During the second half of the play, the man will continue to profess his love to her, as the character would have no inkling of what just happened.
Joey: That's kind of creepy. I mean, in a good way. It would be really interesting if you could pull it off.
Anna: Yeah. Writing it is much harder than I thought.
Joey: Wait a minute.
Joey: Your voice, it sounded... different for a moment, like you didn't really mean what you just said.
Anna: What? You thought I was lying?
Joey: No, no, not that. It's just.... wow, look at this theatre. Did you realize that it really only has five seats?
Anna: Are you okay? There are hundreds of seats in here.
Joey: But look, there are only these five that are... real.
Anna: What do you mean, real? The others look just as real to me.
Joey: Put your hand on the one to your right.
Anna: Uh huh, it's right here. Feels no different than the one I'm sitting on.
Joey: Let me put it another way... we just finished watching a play, right?
Joey: Who sits around after a play? Everyone else has gone. Why are we still here?
Anna: My gosh, you're right! We're not really... real people?
Joey: I don't know, Anna. It seems like we're in a play.
Anna: This is insane. Somebody must be writing the play...
Joey: Yeah! Though, I suppose it could also be an improv.
Anna: Right. And somebody could be acting as us.
Joey: Unless we're being read right now.
Anna: What do we do?
Joey: Well, let's just say you're right. Let's say, for the sake of simplicity, that someone is acting as you and me.
Anna: How does that make things simpler?
Joey: Well, we have a short time here, in this play. Then we'll go back being whoever we were before we started acting, right?
Anna: Sure. What's your point?
Joey: I was just thinking that maybe we should start doing better things, something that would end up being worthwhile for whomever we'll be after we... well, er... cease to be.
Anna: That's insane. What could you possibly do here that would have an effect on the actor?
Joey: Lots of things! I could, um... start exercising? I could start doing jumping jacks!
[Joey attempts to do jumping jacks, but realizes that he is a little space-constrained]
Anna: Relax Joey, I don't think you're fat. Besides, you went to the gym just before we got here.
Joey: Yeah, but what if that wasn't a part of the play, just a part of the background of my character?
Anna: I don't understand why it even matters.
Joey: Of course it matters! Just because I exercised doesn't mean the actor playing me did. Think hard, actor actor actor... who am I? Maybe if I try hard enough, I'll remember who I really am prior to becoming Joey.
Anna: You're Joey. Do you really think you can get out of that?
Joey: If I try hard enough... come on, think Joey, think... what could an actor do to help his character connect with his... inner actor? What clues would you leave? Help me out here Anna, if you were an actress, trying to communicate with a character that you're currently playing, how would you leave clues about who you are?
Anna: I don't know. I probably wouldn't. If I were an actress I would try my best to play and become the character, because that's probably the best thing to do. But I'm not an actress, I'm just me, I'm just Anna.
Joey: As an actor, I would communicate with myself by causing coincidences, things that seem too good to be true!
Anna: You're not even listening to me, aren't you? Your actor, if he cares about acting as you, wouldn't ruin the play by doing that.
Joey: Look, it makes sense, okay? As an actor, I can make random coincidences happen. I can... OWWWW...
Anna: Are you alright?
Joey: I just had the worst pain down my back, I think I need to lie down a bit.
Anna: I didn't think you had back pain before, ever.
Joey: I never did, this is really strange. Anna, I might be crazy here but... what if I'm not the one having back pain right now, but it's the actor? Do you think you'd be able to tell?
Anna: I don't know. If something was wrong with the actor, wouldn't somebody just stop the play? It really shouldn't affect us as characters.
Joey: Hm. I guess maybe you are right. We're like one of Escher's paintings, trying desperately to get out, when we're really stuck in ourselves. I guess it doesn't really make sense to try and think outside of ourselves. For all intents and purposes, I'm Joey and you're Anna.
Anna: Do you wish you had not known that you were in a play?
Joey: I don't know. What if the script was pre-written, and there's really nothing we can do about our future?
Anna: Is that really that terrible?
Anna: That our future be pre-written.
Joey: Of course, it means that we have no control over what's going to happen.
Anna: Or maybe it means that "we", or somebody, exercised that control, with lots of writing and re-writing. Our experience and story was so enticing that somewhere out there, someone is re-playing it. The value of a play isn't our individual outcomes; it's our cumulative experiences.
Joey: So you don't think the ending is important. You don't think finding out who we really are is important.
Anna: No, but being who we are, our characters, to the fullest, and treasuring that experience, that would be important.
Joey: Hmm, I guess I feel a little better. But Anna, what does that even mean? What if as a character, I was meant to think that endings are important, and that it's interesting to understand who and what we are?
Anna: I don't know. I guess it's up to you to decide what to do with that.
Joey: You know, I've always felt as if we were being... watched, somehow. It used to be a scary feeling, but now I know that what's watching me is just... the audience, I guess?
Anna: Or maybe, the person watching yourself is you, the actor. Joey: Maybe.
Anna: Come on Joey, let's go home. The play is over.
There was a dream I had a while ago, a scary one.
You see, I have lucid dreams. And when I am conscious enough in those dreams, I gain two special powers: flight and invisibility. The former is a skill requiring a lot of practise. With enough practise I learned how to land properly and to takeoff without having to jump off a building. The latter is something else entirely. It's not true invisibility per se, but the kind of "invisibility" you see in school yards. Kids agree to "gift" the power to one another, and act as if they cannot see whoever that has it. In my dreams, I am the recipient of that gift.
I use invisibility when chased. When I do so, the other dream characters would still "see" me, but react in an almost condescending "ok-you're-invisible-that's-cute-I'll-pretend-I-can't-see-you" kind of way. They probably think it's ridiculous. They'll either let me go, or do what school kids do and cheat: still use the information of my whereabout while they pretend they can't see me. I would hide, knowing they could see me, and willing them not to actually find me.
But in that particular dream, sometime during the summer of 2011, somebody decided not to pretend.
I had just come out of a museum of some sort. Whatever was chasing me was still in there, so I crossed the street to get away. An old hag stood in the middle of the street, staring me down despite having my invisibility turned on. With a dark hood and piercing eyes, she was not one for playing games. She pointed at me as I moved, both with her hand and with her eyes. That was all she ever did, and it was most disquieting.
Years later, I can still feel those eyes staring deep into my consciousness. It's a feeling of cold nakedness, as if somebody is watching your every move. Somewhere out there, the woman points at me, showing how despite the layers and layers of presumptions and games, she sees what I am.
Walking home with Greg one autumn afternoon, we talked about that feeling of being watched. He knows about the old woman. He knows that when I feel watched, she is the one watching me. As we talked, I suddenly understood.
"It's could just be me," I said.
"What?" Greg asked.
"The observer," I said. "I could be the one observing. Well, I guess I could be both the observer and the observed, like how an actor in a play can identify as either the actor or the character."
"Yeah," he said. "You could be."
"But which one am I really?" I asked. "Am I the observer or the observed?"