It’s time. The lights dim, the audience roars and it’s your turn to greet them. You are no longer the character they watched, but yourself, walking toward center stage to face all who watched you. You have waited for this moment for quite some time, and you are ready to receive the praise that they are eager to give you.
The bow calls for an abandonment of your character. The rule that demands “you must never break character” is dismissed for this moment and the audience sees you just as you are. The fourth wall is gone, and now there is nothing separating you from your character. The character you were has been exchanged for reality, and your audience now recognizes you as you. Your first steps toward center stage make you realize that this is your moment to acknowledge them face-to-face.
Initially, you think they’re thanking you. Their praise indicates to you that your audience is grateful for your entertainment, for your emotions, for your story. You gave them all they needed to engage in an alternate world with alternate characters and now you bow to accept their appreciation. As the cheering continues and you scan the crowd, you realize this bow means more to you than others would think. Is your bow only an exchange of your audience’s gratitude toward you? Or does this bow initiate a catharsis of your own?
As an actor, you work every moment of every day to produce something that an audience will love. You work to eventually see that your audience approves of the story you have told them and appreciate what has been communicated. However, your bow does not work entirely one way. There is an equal exchange of thanks from the audience to the performer, as well as from the performer to the audience. Your bow is a form of submission to your audience. You see it as your way of telling them that the effort you put towards every second of rehearsal, and will continue to put towards your art, is for them. With that commitment, you submit everything you are to become a character for them to grow with and relate to.
With this bow you say:
Thanks to you, audience, because you are why I do what I do. Thanks to you, because your very applause confirms to me that the hours I spent rehearsing lines, learning blocking, running numbers and sacrificing time was worth it. Thanks to you, audience, because your praise eliminates my uncertainty towards my art and my fear and anxiousness towards defeat. You are the reason I wake up every day inspired by a character that I must become. I realize at this moment that my art produces a feeling of utter contentment, and you are here to witness it. As I stand here at center stage to be thanked by you, I truly owe you the thanks. If I didn’t see you here in front of me clapping and smiling, I wouldn’t be doing what I love. My life without theater would not be fulfilling, so a thanks to you all, because with this bow, I accept the challenges that will come, and I will graciously accept the satisfaction of this moment.