In film, ‘breaking the fourth wall’ is a term for when actors break character and address the audience directly, blurring the line between fiction and reality. It’s been used for comedic effect in movies like Deadpool (2016), Space Balls (1987), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), and many more.
In theatre, breaking the fourth wall is a more personal experience. Live actors can walk through the audience and engage with anyone in the room. There’s an energy to live performance that film can never quite match.
Our lives are full of acting. We all have roles: the role of a student, a teacher, a barista, a parent—the list is endless. Our roles can create a fourth wall in day-to-day interactions. I don’t always engage with baristas in the same way I engage with friends and colleagues; sometimes I just want to get my coffee and go to class. So, I place my order, then we both stare at the debit machine until the transaction goes through. In those same moments, I could connect with the person across from me.
It’s surprising how many people are connected and aren’t fully aware of it. Here on campus and in Nanaimo there’s a lot of opportunity to connect with people. Familiar faces are everywhere, whether it’s up in the quad or down on Commercial Street. That small kindness in a customer service setting could turn into a friendship down the road. The same could be done anywhere. Wherever there is another human being, there is an opportunity for kindness.
We all have roles, but we don’t always have to stick to script. Sometimes we can reach out and break the fourth wall. You might be surprised at who you find on the other side.