Alan Rickman and a Necessary Project

Alan Rickman

Actors are agents of change.  A film, a piece of theater…can change the world.  Alan Rickman



“Hey!  That’s a really neat Alan Rickman quote you have hanging in the window!”


I pretended to know what he was talking about.


“Oh yeah?”


“Yeah!”  He proceeded to tell my why he was so impressed by our display of this quote and why it was this quote which drew him into The Trust.  “I’m an actor,” he told me.  Of course, this is not unusual for Lancaster, so I didn’t think much of it.


“Have you ever seen ‘Something the Lord Made?’”


He was talking to the wrong person.  I’d be lying if I told you I’ve been to the movies more than a dozen times in my whole life.  I MIGHT watch one movie a month – and even that might be a generous estimate.  Not only had I not seen “Something the Lord Made,” but the name “Alan Rickman” didn’t ring a single bell.  He was talking to the wrong person.


I told him I hadn’t seen it, as though that were some unusual happening, and he assured me it was probably because I was so young.  He went on to tell me that he had acted with Alan Rickman in that movie, handing him scalpels and so forth.  I nodded, wide-eyed, and politely mustered an, “Oh!”  Obviously, I was supposed to be impressed by this.  He was talking to the wrong person.


Imagine my surprise when I relayed this story to our Executive Director, who promptly pulled up this picture:


Alan Rickman


I had no words.  Just wide eyes and an open mouth.


Needless to say, I absolutely DO know who Alan Rickman is, and had he said, “You know, Professor Snape from Harry Potter” or “Colonel Brandon from Sense and Sensibility” I would have known immediately who he was talking about.  I realize that I look about sixteen, but even sixteen isn’t too young to know Alan Rickman – I know that now.


I was commissioned to write this blog series as a result of this incident.  Because, gosh, I should at least be able to carry on a conversation about the people whose words mark our entryway!



So what is it about this quote which drew in a stranger from across the street?  Even better – what is it about actors, whether or not we can recite their names, that makes them effective agents of change?  Is it their position in our society or perhaps the abundance of resources which are available to many of them?  I doubt it.


Actors are agents of change because they tell stories, and stories change people.


When a story is skillfully told through film or theater, there is a transaction which happens between a viewer and the character.  It is an encounter in which we readily engage, be it for our happiness or sadness or every other emotion.  It has been said that children who read stories are more empathetic and caring because they are able to put themselves in the shoes of another (the character).  Perhaps this also occurs when we get to watch the story unfold before us.  We laugh, we cry, we get excited – but not for ourselves, for someone else, because of their story.


This wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the actor: they are the catalyst for this encounter.  The actor has an altogether different interaction with the character, one which can move them even more intimately.  Perhaps that’s the magic of it all: the story changes each of us one at a time until, indeed, it has changed the world.