Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Theatre People Who Hate Theatre

After the first 10 minutes of "Bullets Over Broadway" my heart was filled with dread. The jokes were stale, the timing was slow, the joints of the play creaked. I started plotting my intermission escape. And then something miraculous happened: this broadway musical became fun. The actors picked up the pace, the jokes started landing, the choreography began flowing. By the time Olive sings a hilariously on-the-nose sexual bit about wanting a big hot (in a joke that gets bigger and raunchier at every chorus refrain), everything had changed. The audience was won over, I was won over. This was funny, silly.

At the end of the show I looked back on my initial escape and how quickly my mind switched into 'mission abort' mode. It made me wonder if I have become so jaded about theatre that if the first 10 minutes aren't a smash then I'm already planning my 'intermission migraine?'

When I first came to NYC I saw so many bad plays, SO many awful heinous pieces of dreck that were offered for free, that my friends were in (sorry, but it's true), so many pieces I was invited to at schools, under staircases, in art galleries, and even in people's apartments. I reveled in these misshapen scattered works, learned from them, found joy in the art of live performance, debated what wasn't working, problem-solved in my head, and was astounded that there's still this thing people feel compelled to do 4,000 years later out of some primal instinct of theatrical sharing and storytelling. The first thing art every human learns is how to act. The second art form all humans learn is how to put on a show around our acting. We grab props, we pretend, wear costumes of paper hats, build castles from sticks.

This season I have seen 8 shows on Broadway. Usually I'm lucky if I get to see one show the entire year. I have sat through dozens of off-broadway musicals, dramas, and comedies. I need to keep finding the joy and gratitude so I don't become another theatre person who detests seeing theatre. It's a slippery slope. 

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