An Inspector Calls

by J.B. Priestley

Spring, 2000

Theatre is pretense. We take students from Ontario, Iowa, North Carolina, give them a bit of standard British dialect and ask you to believe that they are Brits. We take muslin, paint interior walls on it and ask you to believe you are looking in on a dining room. The actors drink Sprite and we hope you believe it is champagne. We bring you in through an archway constructed of foam and surround you with four Edwardian-looking wall sconces from Menards and ask you to believe you are in early 20th-century England. We put a little make-up on a twenty-two year old and expect that you will believe his is fifty-five. That is how theatre works. It is pretending.

Yet the questions theatre explores and the human nature it reveals are very real. As we watch the characters walk the stage, we see and hear truths about ourselves. And it is no pretending. It is no use pretending that we live alone, that other lives are not affected by our individual and corporate choices, our failures and successes. It is no use pretending that our respectability cannot be penetrated and found wanting. In many cases, we have done no better than the Birlings. They are fiction, but we are real.