When does a scene begin in a play? When the lights go up? When the first line is spoken?
Maybe that’s when it begins for the audience, but for the actors, the scene begins before that. Actors understand the importance of “the moment before.”
Before entering the stage, an actor knows (whether we do or not) the answers to questions like these:
Where are you (the character) coming from?
What are you thinking?
What are you feeling?
What do you want?
The answers to these questions impact both the way the character enters, and the trajectory of the scene.
Sometimes, when I read a story in the Bible, I like to think about “the moment before.” Take John 4:1-42, for example. (You might want to read it–it’s compelling.) Last week, I posted a poem (Thirst) that enters into that story before it even starts, looking at an outcast woman’s walk to the well in the heat of the day.
Now I’ve entered the story again, from Jesus’ perspective. Before he starts the conversation with this woman, what is he thinking? What is he feeling? What does he want? Here’s my poetic take on Jesus’ moment before.
(jesus in john 4)
by kirsten wilson
too late you notice me
too late to go unseen
so you stand
your only movement
the clenching and unclenching of your hand
struggle in your eyes
quiet murmuring prayers
on my lips
merge with the hum
of insects circling the well
sometimes my work
is to sit in the noonday heat
and sweat drops of living water
until the thirst of a broken soul
than its fear