He would drown the stage with tears And cleave the general ear with horrid speech, Make mad the guilty and appal the free, Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed The very faculties of eyes and ears.

Thus we see the power of an emotional truth. Or rather, the imagined power of emotional truth. The truth of the truth is that we witness glimpses of it all the time. We might see it out of the corner of our eyes, happening to someone on the street or in the café at the table next to you. You can see it in Hospice homes and hospitals. You might spot it on the subway.

It is rare that we see someone who could drown a stage with tears. And if we did, we usually turn away. Naked emotion, the real stuff, is sometimes too much to bear. It’s easier to watch on a stage where we can tell ourselves it’s just a performance and we have the distance of the fiction, the stage, the costumes that can help us keep watching. I have seen people do shows about things that really happened to them and they do not drown the stage with tears usually. Nor do they amaze the faculties of eyes and ears. Usually they just make everyone uncomfortable. We need a veil of fiction if we’re going to feel it for ourselves.


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