Reflections

Playing roles

When I was a little girl, I assumed that people are either good or bad and play just one role in their lives. The role of their identity. When I was about 12 and my mother was complaining that teachers at school praised me whereas at home I was not that cooperative, I didn’t agree and couldn’t understand quite well what she was speaking about. It came much later that I realised that there was not just one role I played in my life and that there was nothing wrong about it.

We take on many different roles, whether the traditional ones like the role of a mother, wife, boss, etc. or the ones which are more personal and individual. I’d like to make a comparison here between a role played by an actor and the roles of our lives. The actor is given a part and needs to persuade us that the character is real, no fake. To achieve that, they must live through the character, not just pretend they are someone else. The playing of our roles doesn’t differ at all. It’s not about pretending. It’s about applying our personal traits to those different roles which we should be true in or at least to try for it. Many people pretend but sooner or later, one can distinguish who is just putting on an act.

When teaching students how to deal with various situations or when teaching languages, teachers use a role-play technique which I came across a few years ago. At that time I was whining about feeling silly when speaking English. It’s interesting that I didn’t feel that way when I was learning Russian or German. I was much younger then and the way they were pronounced sounded easier to me. Well, English was a different kettle of fish to me. Fortunately, I was given advice to try the role-play. To role-play a person speaking English confidently and throw my feelings of awkwardness away. I tried hard to follow that advice and it really worked. Not absolutely, but surprisingly a lot.

I also have quite a recent experience of the role-playing. I’m rather shy and don’t feel comfortable to take photographs of strange people, especially when they are aware of my camera. But I wanted very much to attend the fishing out in a nearby village in October and take photos of the action including the participating fishermen. I made a deliberate decision to role-play the character of a confident photographer and gave it a try. The confidence could have been much more thorough – I definitely need more practice – but I actually went there, photographed and felt at ease.

I believe that willingness to step into roles and play them true pays off. It enriches us. No matter whether the roles are brought by the life itself or whether it is our decision to take them on. And my experience also tells me that the role-play is useful not just for children or students to teach them how to deal with life.

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