To Be and How to Be: Transforming Your Life Through Sacred Theatre
by Peggy Rubin


Quest Books, 2010. ISBN 978-0-835-60853-4.
Reviewed by Mary Ann Moore
Posted on 03/05/2011

Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Creative Life

I have enjoyed and appreciated improvisation as well as acting workshops that include shamanic theatre practices, so I was anxious to read Peggy Rubin's book, To Be and How to Be. The insight gained from my past experience helped my writing practice and I have found Rubin's book wonderfully inspiring as well. I'm sure readers will be awakened to the possibilities of being stars in their own great play of life and create a home for the book on the "spiritual growth" section of their book shelves.

Peggy Rubin, who has twenty years of experience coaching professionals in Sacred Theatre, uses traditional theatre as a metaphor "for framing and living life." She divides her book into nine "powers": Incarnation ("learning to embody this lifetime fully"), Story, Now, Place, Expression, Point of View, Conflict, Audience, and Celebration. With these powers or forces, part of Rubin's intent is to "tease out strands" of the "back story," so as to honor all the people who have contributed, from behind the scenes, to one's life.

Theatre's eight most prominent plots are often played out in our daily lives. There are such scenarios as "The Unpaid Debt," "The Triangle," and "The Lost Gift." Among the references and poems are many quotes from Shakespeare who wrote: "all the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players." Rubin changes one of Jacques' words from As You Like It: "And all the men and women sacred players." We all enact sacred plays with drama, antagonists, props, and plots, and play multiple roles in an assortment of costumes.

Near the beginning of the book, Rubin asks the reader to reflect on the ethical principle or divine being (something larger than your own life) to whom you are dedicating your life play. I wrote a dedication to Brigid, goddess of healing, smithcraft, poetry and divination, and to my female ancestors. I'm pleased to look back at the words I wrote and appreciate the many questions Rubin poses to keep me writing and reflecting.

I'm gratified now looking back at what I wrote in answer to Rubins' questions in the sections entitled "Pause, Please." One question, in the chapter on the Power of Incarnation, asks readers to reflect on what was learned from a painful life experience. I didn't have to think far into the experience to realize I had learned courage (rather than settling for second-best) and going for a joy-filled life. All of this helps me in my roles as mother, partner, writer and teacher.

In her chapter on "The Power of Audience," Rubin suggests writing a letter of gratitude to members of your audience, which includes your family, friends, physical objects (such as common tools that support you in your tasks), parts of the natural world, and animal friends. Audience members who are "unseen" are ancestors who Rubin believes to be "mythic powers."

I don't think one needs to be drawn to the theatre to appreciate all this book has to offer. From the beginning, I was engaged with the practices Rubin sets out. I gained insight about my own life and gathered inspiration for a novel I intend to write, as well as listing many writing prompts to use in the writing circles I facilitate.

When we describe a dynamite book, we usually say that we couldn't put it down. In this case, "putting the book down" meant that I was very involved in a creative process. Rubin's wisdom and compassion come through on every page and makes the reading of the book an enriching journey on which I will reflect over and over again.


Peggy Rubin, founding director of the Center for Sacred Theatre in Ashland, Oregon, draws on her experience as a classical and Shakespearean actress to lead workshops in the United States and abroad. She is also the principal teaching associate in Jean Houston's Mystery Schools and School for Social Artistry. Visit her website.

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