Skip to main content

There’s a lot going on in my life right now.

Some of it, and what is really on my mind, is deeply personal and somehow doesn’t seem appropriate for this theatre column. So, while writing about very important stuff, this is not what’s first and foremost on my mind. Yes, Virginia, there is something more important to Jim than theatre.

You hear a lot these days about the importance of “one’s voice being heard,”  about “listening,” and “mindfulness.” In the theatre we talk about the term “being present,” and wedding this with the need to have a strong “objective” in  each and every moment, scene and in an entire play while, at the same time always being open to and allowing yourself to be affected by everything that is happening on stage between you and the other actors and the environment that surrounds you — the sounds, the things you see and touch-that, by necessity because theatre is a living art form that cannot be frozen in time like a piece of film or a painting, no matter how well rehearsed a play is, will be different and change, sometimes very subtly and sometimes enormously, in  each and every performance. (I know that was a long and perhaps cumbersome sentence, but I hope you’re still with me.) There will always be a constant flow of new stimuli that will be there every night and will always be fresh and different from all the other nights that have preceded it and will come after.

I find myself constantly amazed at the ability of actors to place themselves in this place of such openness, to liberate themselves of experiences that they may have had in their lives, to share and use themselves in the present and to find out each night anew whether they are prepared to transgress their personal limits once again. To do this they must possess a vulnerable radicalism, that says to the audience, “I will share all of this with you, all that I am experiencing with you right now. I will show you my intimate secrets and desires and you will not cringe or back away but be entranced and grateful that I am doing this.

That’s what I come to the theatre to see. Mere virtuosity isn’t enough. This is what makes for greatness.

And that’s true whether we’re talking about the theatre or the business of getting through each day of our lives and the sometimes insurmountable challenges that come with living.

And that is what is on my mind today.


Jim Niesen


Author Irondale

More posts by Irondale

Leave a Reply