Behind the Theatre Mask

I think most authors put a bit of their own lives into their fictional stories. The themes and ideas behind our books often come from our life experiences, our interests and passions. (About Me)

All writers take us behind the scenes of their characters’ lives and work. Through this, the reader gets a glimpse of a world they perhaps only know about from the front. This could explain why detective, courtroom and hospital dramas are so popular. As a child, I loved watching films about making films or putting on a show.  ‘Let’s do the show right here…’  was my favourite theme. It felt like a forbidden glimpse into the workings of the smoke and mirrors behind the façade. 

Going behind the scenes is not an uncommon theme in my books. I follow my own interests, passions and experience by taking the reader into a world in which I was once immersed; theatres, rehearsal rooms and dance studios. 

They are the places where I spent my formative years and it is a background I love. I can still picture those studios and backstage corridors; smell the familiar smell of a damp theatre; a dance studio after a class and the makeup smell of the dressing rooms. I can hear the scuttle of point shoes on the wooden floors, and the swish of costumes moving through backstage corridors: the cacophony of an orchestra tuning up and the reverent hush which descends when the stage manager decides the show is about to begin. The feel of the hot lights and the anxious intake of breath as the curtain rises. 

Not surprising then that I love to use theatre as a setting in my books. It is also an opportunity to write a lively cast of characters and give the reader a glimpse of an unfamiliar workplace.

In my latest book – Divas, Dogs and Dreamers, we go behind the scenes of a West End Musical on tour, and delve deeper into the lives of the two main characters

When their lives collide one night on Shaftesbury Avenue, Sophie and Alex seem to have nothing in common. They come from different worlds and have totally different approaches to life. 

Sophie Wilde is living a shambolic life in a grimy North London Attic flat, after breaking up with her alcoholic boyfriend. She works in the gig-economy, lives from pay cheque to pay cheque and is surrounded by a large, noisy family.

Alex Brooke, is a Producer of Musical Theatre for Broadway and the West End. He has no family and lives with his dogs and housekeeper in Hampstead (the Posh part of North London.) His success leads to more column inches in the national press than he wants, and he too has an alcoholic in his life. His latest production depends on his Diva’s performance, and keeping her ‘problem’ out of the newspapers.

Their meeting was the starting point for Divas Dogs and Dreamers and I soon realised that it would be a story reflected in the paradox of the Theatre Mask.

The two faces of comedy and tragedy express the two extremes of human emotion and has been used as a theatre emblem for over 2,000 years, since the days of theatre in ancient Greece. 

These two faces were also associated with Dionysus, the Greek God of wine, because it aptly describes the two faces of drink. 

So, Divas, Dogs and Dreamers is the story of two characters who appear to be an unlikely pairing and who seem to have little in common except for a shared love of dogs and theatre. Until they discover that they both have an alcoholic in their lives, whom they need to care for. 

Sadly, as well as experience of working in Theatre, I also have personal experience of living with an alcoholic, and in this book, I have tried to give this subject the respect it deserves.  Alcoholism is heart-breaking for the sufferers, and also for those around them, who care for them. It is all too often a disease suffered by creative and sensitive people. It is not uncommon in theatre. 

Divas, Dogs and Dreamers is a Romantic Comedy. The romance is obvious and the comedy is provided by the collision of two very different lives and the character’s shared love of dogs. The tragedy, on the other hand, is as old as the emblem of the theatre Masks itself, but is still raw and difficult for those of us who have tried to help a loved one with their demons. 

Two faces; two extremes; and the whole gamut of human experience between. Which is what all stories are about …

The coexistence of Comedy and Tragedy in the age-old paradox of The Theatre Mask.

Next Week …

I will take a look at Sophie’s role as a Wardrobe Assistant in theatre.

‘I know. I work in Wardrobe. We hear a lot of gossip…’ She tailed off. The mask had slipped over his face again; that mask she was beginning to recognise when she strayed too close to forbidden territory.

Sophie Wilde in Divas. Dogs and Dreamers.

Published by Anita Belli

Author and Creative Writing Tutor. Novels: Divas, Dogs & Dreamers. Once Upon A Blue Moon. Ruby Sixpence Whistles Up A Storm. The Traveller & The Rose. The Art Forger's Daughter. Non-Fiction: How to be An Author in the Classroom. Write Your Life. Kickstart Your Writing. Unlock The Block. For Children: A Month of Writing Adventure

7 thoughts on “Behind the Theatre Mask

    1. Thank you, Charlotte. I really believe that most writers find inspiration for their novels from events, themes and people in their lives. I shall do more posts like this in the months to come. You will be notified if you follow this blog!

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