Friday, February 4, 2011

The Theater of Freemasonry

Bring up the lights... knock,knock,knock ... ACTION!  
Recently I had the absolute pleasure of watching one of my guys, mine because I was the top line signer on his petition, deliver the mother of all Masonic lectures the second degree's Middle Chamber, to a couple of deserving Brothers with such style and passion I could not stop thinking about it for a couple of days. For those of you who do not know what I am talking about, or for those from Masonic jurisdictions who do not give the Middle Chamber in the Fellowcraft degree, it is about twenty pages long and describes and explains everything from the orders of architecture to the liberal arts and sciences in a dramatic way. When it is done wrong it is a guaranteed cure for sleeplessness for everyone involved but when done right, like it was done the other night, it captures and captivates and feeds the fire of learning of our order.
So much of Masonic ritual can be enhanced and made to come to life when done with a little dramatic flair. Imagine you read about some amazing play at some fantastically decorated old theater, you spend some time imagining how it is staged and performed and your anticipation builds. You finally scrape together the money to get a ticket to see it and you spend the whole drive to the playhouse anticipating the evening. When you enter the old auditorium you are amazed at the architecture and details of the room. The lights go down and you hardly can believe you are finally there, then the lights come up and the cast comes on stage in immaculate costumes and....the lead begins to drone in a monotone a long soliloquy that you can barely stay awake for, then you catch some of the ensemble peaking at a script while they mutter through their lines with no inflection or meaning and every now and then there is a long pause as someone tries to remember their line. You bear with all of your patience through the first act and you run as fast as you can to your car during the intermission.
At least you can walk out of a bad play, yet most men who come across bad ritual at their lodge quietly endure and if they make it through two more "encores" get their dues card and never come back. Who wants to go see a bad performance over and over again? Even the best written script can be a painful experience when delivered wrong. That is why me must add something to the ritual. Even if you can deliver it word for word and understand every part that you recite, if you can not deliver it with passion and a little dramatic flair chances are you will loose the audience, our candidates, eventually.
Now I know that not every Mason has the ability to perform like Sir Lawrence Olivier but even if we can sprinkle in a few Bill Murrays (it was just Groundhog Day) our fraternity would be the better for it. Maybe even Grand Lodges could do some workshops on acting as much as they have ritual seminars to raise the level of performance in our Lodges, cause when you see a Middle Chamber done by a young excited Freemason you connect to the words a lot better and want more.

1 comment:

Chris said...

We do not have this lecture in my ritual, but we do have a rather long (about 15 minutes) Charge to the Initiate. The first long piece I memorised was this charge, and when I, in turn, sponsored an initiate, I delivered the charge to him.

In his turn, he delivered this charge to his brother-in-law when HE was initiated, and did so well that we stood to order immediately to congratulate him. He will make a fine WM in around 4-5 years.

A few of our members were members of a theatrical lodge which merged with ours around 6 years ago. One does the Address to the Brethren and the Graveside address so well that we are mesmerised for the few minutes it takes to deliver them.

W Bro. Chris Hansen, WM
Goliath Lodge #5595 UGLE