Wearing Shoes of the Unknown

January 21, 2009
The crowd stands in applause. Their ovation causes their seats to return to the upright position. As each hand meets its opposite, the noise fills my heart with a sense of respect, understanding, and success. These feelings aren’t due as much to my performance, or the cast’s ability to entertain the audience for 90 minutes, but rather of my ability and willingness to become the character.

This feeling saturated at my mind as I took my bow that sophomore year opening performance of “Cabaret.” The musical takes place in Berlin, Germany in 1931. By this time, Germany is beginning to feel the impact of the Nazi party in day to day life; an impact that will spread across the continent. My character, Herr Schultz, is a Jewish fruit stand owner and an innocent elderly gentleman. He plans to win the heart of his love, Fraulein Schneider, but is later denied its fulfillment on account of his nationality. She realizes what the German authorities will think of this nonsense, and her mind outweighs her heart. No matter his determination to change her mind, she remains visible to her feelings of doubt. By the end of the show, Herr Schultz has moved away from Berlin to escape his memories of distress. Later we learn from research he is put into a concentration camp and burned by the Nazi Guard of the Chamber Prisons. Herr Schultz survives the burning, but then is shot to death after his plea to God for help.

My father has always taught me to put myself into other people’s shoes and learn why people are the way they are. In Cabaret, I had the incredible ability of doing just that. When the words of rejection knocked at the door of my heart from my co-actor, I knew the distress that was felt by the sweet gentlemen. I could feel my heart sink as the declaration from her lips tore me apart. I tried to appeal her decision with the lyrics “Somebody Wonderful Married Me…” but her mind was made up. Neither the flesh nor the soul was willing at this point. In my mind, it was as though I had really felt this. I was haunted and shaken by her words of emotion. Only thought remained within me, not as Herr Schultz, but as the one who brought him back to life; was this, “These words are more painful than I have ever heard in my life.” My eyes closed because I could no longer look at my co-actor, who truly was Fraulein Schneider.

From this moment, the person I become within the dimensions of my character is phenomenal. I see the world from the eyes of one I have created. It has been said that “the world is a stage.” After Cabaret, my emotional acceptance of this quote has been confirmed. In our eyes we see a community, but in the eyes of a character, we see a world.

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