Monday, May 13, 2013

A Review of The Second Circle by Patsy Rodenburg

While reading Mark Bowden’s Winning Body Language, he mentioned Patsy Rodenburg, whom I heard of somehow before. She’s an acting coach. 

Why read a book by an acting coach? Because we’re all actors, aren’t we? After all, we all act and inter-act, don’t we? By saying this, I’m not suggesting that we’re all somehow false and manipulative, although I suppose all of us are at some time or another. Most significantly, we’re all a part of a cast in a performance, or rather, many performances: with our family, in our workplace, and with our friends. Perhaps no one says it better than Shakespeare: 
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players,
They have their exits and entrances,
 And one man in his time plays many parts

Rodenburg explores her acting ideas in the context of daily life in this book. She divides our world into three parts: the inward-looking world of the First Circle, the I-Thou world (my description) of the Second Circle, and the over-powering self of the Third Circle. She urges us to spend most of our lives in the Second Circle. She is, to my mind, teaching the process and value of living in an I-Thou world. Fortunately, her teaching is shorn of the complex language and notions of I-Thou’s great teacher, the German-Jewish philosopher Martin Buber. (I haven’t read I-Thou, although I have a copy and have started it. Even a good translation of some German prose (mine by Walter Kaufman) is too daunting. For a fun and worthwhile introduction and discussion of Buber, go the Buber discussion at The Partially Examined Life.) 

Rodenburg’s ideas and suggestions about how to live in the Second Circle make a lot of sense. She provides exercises and images to help locate yourself in this inter-active arena, pulling you out of yourself (First Circle) or containing yourself (Third Circle). On the other hand, I thought the book went on too long after having established the main idea and exercises. Also, it’s something that one might learn more about by watching a DVD or webcast (which you can find on line). 

Rodenburg, like Bowden (and unlike too many philosophers), doesn’t ever forget that we’re embodied creatures, and anyone who teaches us to more fully and meaningful inhabit and communicate in the corporeal world has done us all a great service.

No comments: