The director and the actor, part 1

I don’t write allegories. Well, except for this one — inspired over two years ago by someone’s chance comment —  which practically wrote itself.

Like all allegories, it’s not perfect, so please don’t plumb it for depths of meaning or hold it up to theological scrutiny. Also, please don’t assume you can guess at the identities of the actor and the actress— they aren’t representations of anyone in particular. They could be an unhappily married couple…a pastor and his unruly flock…people trying to minister to the lost and broken..coworkers…family members…fellow Believers…or just about anyone. 

If you find anything in this allegory helpful or appropriate to your own situation, that’s great. I’m dusting this off and showing it the light of day only because I hope it might provide someone else with the same hope and comfort — and sorrowful conviction of sin — that it gave me back when my writing it caught me by surprise. 

More recently, I added a fourth part. Stay tuned.

The director sighed. “Are you serious?” he asked.

“Of course I’m serious!” the actor retorted. “I shouldn’t have to deal with this stuff. Things need to change!”

The director replied calmly and gently. “Look, I hope by now you know how much you mean to me, my friend. But it’s time you faced reality. You’re not the big star in a blockbuster movie; you’re just one of the many actors in Hours of Our Lives. Julia Roberts doesn’t even waste her talent on soap operas and, even if she did, our show couldn’t afford her. Plus, she’s way, way out of your league — she is very picky about her leading men.”

“OK, maybe not Julia Roberts, but someone else…anyone else! You cast the wrong person for this role! And the script — it’s all wrong!”

“Wait a minute. Didn’t you come to me, asking for my help and guidance? You could have chosen another director with a script you liked better. I warned you that working for me can be difficult and painful at times, even dangerous, and that I might ask you to make some big sacrifices. But you insisted you wanted me — and no one else — to direct you, that you trusted me, and that you would play any role I gave you. I tailor-made your part of the script for you, and I hand-picked the actress to play opposite you. Are you telling me you that I don’t know what I’m doing?”

“Of course not. You’re a great director, and you know how much our friendship means to me. But, you see, I have my own script. And, in my script, I have a much better wife. The one you came up with to play that role is terrible! She’s one big royal pain in the rear to work with. She argues with me all the time. It’s gotten so bad that I hate coming to rehearsals. She refuses to follow my script. She can barely act. She’s not at all pretty. How could you do this to me? It’s hard to even like her! Either you made some big mistake, or you’re trying to ruin my life. I know she is!”

The director sighed again, and spoke even more gently, “I can see that you’re upset. I know this is not an easy role that I’ve given you. But it’s nowhere near as bad as your description! I think you are making things more difficult than they need to be. Don’t you trust me?”

“Of course I do. How can you even ask that? It’s just that I have this really great script I’ve been working on for years, and I know it’s the right one for me — and I know this…this ‘actress’ you came up with is completely wrong for the role of my character’s wife.”

“I see.” The director sounded grieved. “So you think your script is better than mine?”

“Um, no. I just thought maybe we could work on the script together, you know…a lot of my ideas are based on your script, anyway. For example, there’s the part in your script that describes the wife as being ‘sensitive’. Well, my script has all these scenes showing exactly how a sensitive wife should treat her husband, and your script seems to be missing that.”

“But my script has scenes about how a loving husband is supposed to treat his wife, yet you refuse to play them.”

“That’s not true! I play them exactly as written! My character is extremely forgiving towards his awful shrew of a wife. Even though she is so terrible, he puts up with her.”

“I don’t think you’ve read my script carefully enough,” the director said, but his voice was so soft that the actor chose to ignore it. So then the director said, “You need to realize something. The actress you are so upset with is also my friend. You know how I give you the lines you need each day? Neither of you has read each other’s parts…and neither of you has read the entire script. You don’t know how it plays out.”

“Well, if you’re friends with her, you must know how awful she is and what a terrible job she’s doing with this role! I can’t believe that she is even consulting your script — surely you wouldn’t write such a horrible story!”

“Oh, she comes in here a lot — ”

“What? She’s probably complaining about me — she is always complaining — and I bet she argues with you a lot — she is such a contentious woman that I dread being around her!”

“Not at all. I love her company…even when she cries. Unfortunately, she does that a lot —”

“Trying to manipulate you with her tears, huh?” the actor didn’t bother hiding his contempt.

“No.” The director looked straight into the actor’s eyes and, although his voice stayed gentle, there was a firm edge to it. “I think you are forgetting what I just said. She is my friend. And I am the director, remember? That makes her a friend of the director. You don’t know her as well as I do. Just like you, she is one of my most precious friends. I was hoping you and she could be friends also, but instead, I have watched you snub her, deliberately rebuff her every offer of friendship, and even go so far as to publicly humiliate her.”

At this point, the actor got defensive and tried to make excuses, but the director cut him off. “You can pretend to yourself, but I see right through it.” He paused and then went on, “You know how you often tell me that you want to be just like me, that I’m your role model? Then why are you refusing to follow my example?” He held up his hand to silence the actor’s protests. “If you were like me,” he said in the saddest voice the actor had heard him use in a long time, “you would love her, because I love her. Besides, she is trying to be like me also — if you were truly my friend, you would love her for the ways she takes after me. And you would thank me for choosing her to play the role of your character’s wife.”

Love her? Thank him? What kind of crazy talk was that? The actor muttered after he left in a huff. Obviously the director didn’t understand. That terrible actress was nothing like the director! He grew angrier the more he thought about their conversation. “That’s some fine way for the director to treat me after all my years of devotion to him! I’ll play in his stupid show, because I’m a decent guy who keeps his word, but I’m only doing it out of a sense of duty. I’m not going to like it, and there is no way I will ever thank him for making me work with such a terrible actress!”

**********

Read Part 2.

3 thoughts on “The director and the actor, part 1

  1. Pingback: The director and the actor, part 2 | Prone to wander…

  2. Pingback: The director and the actor, part 3 | Prone to wander…

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