Your persona is the way you present yourself to the world, the character traits that you let show and the way that people will see you. If you are true to yourself, then your persona should reflect who you actually are. In some cases, however, people present false images or a false persona. The actions that a person takes and the traits they allow to show to the world help to dictate their persona. The persona may be an accurate representation of who the person really is, but this is not always the case.
As an adult I am conscious that I behave differently in different situations. As a young teacher my dilemma with this in mind came on a Friday evening, and subsequently a Monday morning when my Year 6 children announced that their mum or dad saw me down The Crypt Nightclub in Hastings on Friday. Teaching is a wonderful profession but it comes with a certain amount of public exposure of which I have always been mindful. In short, I recognise that the way I present myself outside of school, as well as inside, is important, to me and to others.
I have been reflecting on persona since watching the children in Year 5 acting on Victorian Day yesterday. Their performances of short sketches from Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby were insightful and full of expression. The audience witnessed children take on a completely different character and almost lose themselves within it. Children in Year 7 have been completing drama pieces with masks which completely removes expression and allows them to focus on behaviour. That is the joy of drama – children are able to become somebody completely different and take on a persona with traits quite different from their own. I believe this is hugely beneficial as it allows children to explore character and consider the impact of different behaviours. It encourages children to understand and deal with feelings through a different character and to relate to different situations, backgrounds and cultures, showing compassion and tolerance for others.
Compare this to the performances I witnessed that evening at the Music Recital performances, for children sitting ABRSM examinations on Monday and Tuesday next week. It occurred to me that here children were presenting far more openly. As musicians it is less easy to take on a different persona. Playing music for an audience is almost opening up your soul, exposing your inner self. Jen Hustler has spoken of the “performance bubble” which musicians are encouraged to “enter” but in reality they are being themselves and only using tone or the way t hey play to portray an image. Having not really been in this position (my piano learning days need to be rekindled) I am envious of those who have the confidence to do so.
In our everyday adult lives there are often times when we need to present a different persona, one of strength for example when inside things are falling apart. The analogy of the swan, with its calm demeanour on the surface of the pond and its feet moving rapidly underwater, resonates with us at times when we are faced with huge challenges. It is at times like these that we need somebody with whom we can be ourselves, when we can cease the drama and be the musician.
The children at Yateley Manor have opportunities regularly to be the actor and musician. It builds their character. It allows them to explore different persona and then develop their own traits. I have always said we want confident children, not arrogant ones. We do not want children to pretend to be anything they are not, but at times in later life they will need to be swan-like.
Of course, perhaps it is possible to work in reverse when acting. Meryl Streep is quoted as saying, “Acting is not about being someone different. It's finding the similarity in what is apparently different, then finding myself in there.”