I have a confession to make. I don’t really “get” the theatre.

I blame growing up in the eighties. When I wasn’t watching MTV, I was playing Super Mario Bros. When I wasn’t playing Super Mario Bros., I was reading Sweet Valley Twins. Going to see a play or musical wasn’t on the radar. As a kid the closest I ever got to a stage was watching the high schoolers sing and dance during our school’s annual Octoberfest program, but as they constantly broke character, I was quickly disillusioned by the notion that the theatre could do anything for me. I preferred my make believe to be projected from the television in my living room.

It wasn’t until college that an attempt was made to cultivate a love for the theatre, yet even then it was somewhat forced. To fulfill a gen-ed credit I took a theatre appreciation class and at best tolerated the endless lectures explaining proscenium arches and stage left versus stage right. Not long afterwards I was given the chance to attend a real live musical currently in town. I walked into the theatre that night with serious misgivings, but upon hearing the first verse of “Memory,” I finally forgot that on stage was a grown woman dressed up as a past her prime feline. I was hooked. For the next several years, I went to as many musicals as I could: Cats, Miss Saigon, Les Miserables, Chicago, Rent. Being in the same room with people pretending to be nineteenth century French ex-convicts or Prohibition-era murderesses was still a bit strange for me, but I was able to get past it while listening to “On My Own” or watching Bob Fosse’s mesmerizing choreography.

Plays, on the other hand, have continued to be a problem. I realize that thousands of years before anybody ever heard of an AMC theatre or HBO, there was the stage. And I love reading Greek tragedy. I adore Shakespeare. Even Tennessee Williams is pretty cool. Regardless, sitting in a theatre and watching actors act feels odd. So in your face.

During grad school, I had a very dear friend who worked at the South Coast Repertory and would graciously give me tickets to the plays; I saw this as a second chance to finally appreciate this ancient art form. Instead I just kept thinking up hypothetical catastrophes. What if there was an earthquake right now? What if the power went out? What if I ran up on stage and ripped off all my clothes? I was dying for something to happen that would force the actors to break that fourth wall. They weren’t in ancient Troy or Romeo’s Verona. They were in Orange County, California, and hundreds of people were watching them in a darkened theatre. I had a mean compulsion to stand up and shout, “I know you know we’re here!”

And speaking of clothes getting ripped off… The worst is when the characters have to get sexy. Once that happens, forget it. I am totally out of the story. Sure, I probably have some maturity issues to work out, but come on, it’s just weird for an audience to watch people getting it on. Is anybody even paying attention to the play anymore? Because I’m not. I’m just wondering if the actors in question are as uncomfortable as I am.

However, my biggest issue with the theatre is the occasional bad acting. Now I know bad acting abounds in film and television, yet should I encounter it, I simply walk out of the room or turn off the TV. Not so easy in the theatre. Once it becomes obvious that an actor is really, really bad, I experience a kind of discomfort similar to what happens when watching an ice skater fall during her program. But this time there’s no off button. I can’t just change the channel. I have to sit there and endure an endless parade of falls for the next hour and a half.

So… last weekend I attended a friend’s play. Completely in the dark (pun intended) regarding its origin or storyline, I knew only two things: my friend was in it and there was no intermission. This last bit of information concerned me somewhat, but as my friend is a fantastic actor, I figured that watching him perform would hopefully make the time fly by.

Steve didn’t disappoint. He was great. However, I needn’t have worried in the first place. At some point during the performance, maybe a half-hour in, maybe later, I suddenly noticed that I was leaning forward in my seat. I had forgotten about not having an intermission. I had forgotten that we weren’t really in the Bronx. Instead, I was hanging on every word each character said, wondering how this story would end, but at the same time not wanting it to end at all. I loved this play.

I’ve watched hundreds of movies; most of them are not that good. Yet it’s films like It Happened One Night and Raiders of the Lost Ark and This is Spinal Tap that keep me coming back for more. Have I seen hundreds of plays? No. Not even close. Yet for years I’ve been condemning the entire art form based on the few I had seen and not liked. That’s hardly fair. Having had the opportunity to enjoy Savage in Limbo made me realize that as with many other things in life, I simply had made a snap judgment on something of which I knew very little.

Though I wouldn’t have minded a little Mr. Mistoffelees number thrown in. Just to mix it up a bit.

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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6 Responses to “What’s My Motivation Here?”

I had a mean compulsion to stand up and shout, “I know you know we’re here!”

I almost fell off my chair laughing! xox

February 10th, 2011

Thanks, lady! You know what would make that fantasy even better? If the person shouting happened to have a British accent. 😉

February 10th, 2011

I love theatre! I grew up watching my brother act in plays. So I guess there is a sentimental attachment. I did see some not so great plays in my time and it does suck to be stuck in the theatre…..boo!

February 12th, 2011

I really need to see more plays, if anything to feel more comfortable with the intimacy of the theatre. Yet another one of my issues! 😉 I have so much respect for theatre actors, though. To memorize hours of lines… Wow. So impressive.

February 14th, 2011

This is where you totally plug Steve’s play – you should tell us all where it is!! Haha because it sounds like it was REALLY good!!! I love this!

February 24th, 2011

Thanks so much! The play was amazing… And you’re right. I should have provided a link to the play’s website. Or maybe next time I’ll just include Steve’s phone number for everyone to get details. 😉

February 24th, 2011