The fourth wall

I heard about this term the other day called “the fourth wall” that’s used in theater. It’s the concept that actor and audience are separated by a “fourth wall” - the stage. The stage is a bit like a screen. There’s a separate reality going on within / on it. A spectator can observe, but isn’t a part of the scene.  

This wall can be broken. That happens when an actor addresses the audience directly. Which you see in theater shows from time to time. But it’s also been made famous in shows like The Office or the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  

But by and large - a fourth wall is put up so that someone can witness an event without being involved within the event.  

And, as we all know, it’s one thing to witness and it’s another to be involved.

You can watch a football game on TV, but it’s a whole different experience to play.

Owen Wilson’s character in Midnight in Paris knew all about his favorite creatives of thenearly 20th century - but it was taken to a whole other level when he went back in time and interacted with them.

You can watch Anthony Bourdain eat delicious looking food, but it’s a game changer when you are eating the same food yourself.

The list goes on. There’s a difference between witnessing and actually being involved.  

And this distinction is a lot like how our social lives can be. We all put up fourth walls to our true selves.

There’s the false self of shallowness and naïveté. But then there’s the true self - the place holding all our deepest ambitions, fears, hopes, despair, dreams, etc. And that’s not something we readily invite people into. 

But when we do, we begin to become known. And the more someone else can know us, the more we can grow as creative and resilient people.

Brene Brown is a woman who studies the scientific impact of vulnerability. This is what she had to say,  

“Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear, and our struggle for worthiness, but…it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.” 

Breaking our fourth walls, finding members of the audience of our lives in friends, family, mentors who we can disclose to is key to becoming better actors. It opens us up to a new place of possibility.