Living and Learning

Noises Off

Behind the Curtain

Behind the Curtain

I was awoken this morning at 5:30 by two men talking outside my window. I don’t know what they were talking about, but the sound was amplified in the courtyard and was loud enough to wake me.

It made me think of the stage direction “Noises off” which describes sounds coming from a place the audience cannot see, offstage. I could not see these men until I peeked behind my window blind, and I then I think I embarrassed them. They didn’t expect to be seen. One of them shifted awkwardly and turned around.

This reminded me of something I read years ago by Erving Goffman about our “back stage” behaviours such as doing laundry and cutting our toenails being part of our preparation for when we present ourselves to our audience. When I first read this I was surprised and a little disappointed to acknowledge that day-to-day life was, in fact, acting. Not only are we acting our lives, we are also directing the plays.

This morning I realized that timing is a very significant component of our lives’ theatrical performances. When I heard the two men talking, it was early enough that they expected privacy in a public place. Even though the area was well lit, and even though they were in the middle of a courtyard, the time of day made their conversation “offstage.”

When I saw them, I had pulled back the curtain both literally and figuratively, and it was an awkward moment. They were made uncomfortable, and I was sorry to have seen that. Noises off should be just that. Out of sight.

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