Another show recently closed and I am in the usual state of both missing it and relishing the opening up of time a closed show represents, the luxury of having time to think , to feel , and to reflect.

I’ve been in particularly reflective mood these last several days , meditating especially about holding space. 

When performing a comedy, perhaps especially important in a very dark comedy such as the one I just did, there is a particularly special communication between audience and performer referred to, prosaically , as “holding for laughs.’ As the dialogue (or monologue) proceeds at normal conversational clip , when laughter erupts through the fourth wall , the separation of reality of what is happening in the lives of the characters on stage and the audience members watching temporarily thins to the point of disappearing for the briefest of moments. Holding for a laugh means precisely that, pausing in your speaking to give room for audience laughter . It is a tricky thing , done by “feel” rather than convention . Give a pause and no laughter ensues , the pace of the show is disrupted. Give no pause and there is laughter, ensuing dialogue may be lost, unheard and the audience feels somehow rebuffed for laughing. Done right, it is like what I imagine surfing to be, catching the wave at precisely the right time….beginning the pause once the first swell begins, ending only *just* as the peak of laughter has diminished to almost but not quite subsiding completely. It is a delicious moment of communication and permission . Even when the character on stage is not amused, the actor is acknowledging to audience members, “I would laugh too in your place.”. While an actor is always in communication with the audience and keenly aware of when they are or aren’t  “pulling” for a character, be it in a drama or comedy… there is a sweetness to this moment of held laughter that is quite unlike any other. It is the moment when two different worlds are one.

As we come into this season of celebration and new beginning , many of us have another, different world of things going on. Painfully wrenching loss, sickness, loneliness , unemployment, despair . The lights, the merriment, the bonhomie can seem like something up on stage, unrelated to one’s reality.

I think maybe , particularly at this time of year, we can consciously do a different sort of holding,  a different sort of wave catching. I think we can try to  be attuned to sorrow and need where we meet it , in both others and ourselves and allow it the space it needs to swell and fall. The space for disparate realities to become one.

It all, laughter and pain, needs permission and space… and we can give that to each other and ourselves as a gift this holiday season and all year long. So I guess I am making a resolution here.

Holding for you, holding for myself.

This entry was posted in A well lived life, Acting, Family, Friendship, Self awareness. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Holding

  1. Jackie says:

    Oh!! Such a poignant post. I love your analogy…especially being familiar with theater and the amazing things that happen back stage (also holding) and with the audience.
    Thanks for sharing. It truly is important for us to be “holding.” Without it, it would be hard to go on with the next act..or as others say, “our next chapter.”
    Merry Christmas…and may the New Year offer you more Holding..

  2. Suellen says:

    What an insightful read, Chris. This resonated with me on so many levels. Thank you.

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