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Posts Tagged ‘theater’

8 Reasons I Love the Theatre

I’ve loved theatre for most of my life. I took my first theatre class when I was eleven, and I was hooked. Ever since, whether I’ve been up on stage or sitting in the audience, I’ve felt like going to the theatre is a magical experience.

I try to get to the theatre many times a year, but it can actually be difficult for me to find companions willing to come along. And even as I keep aging, the average theatre audience (discounting school performances and the huge touring sensations like The Book of Mormon or Wicked) is still older than me. A lot older. And while some of that is undoubtedly because of the sometimes steep price tag on theatre tickets, I don’t think that’s the entire story behind the disinterest.

Photo Credit: Bahman Farzad via Compfight cc

So without further ado, here is my list of why going to the theatre is AMAZING:

1. Live performance. There’s a certain special energy surrounding a performance that is in the midst of being created. The role of audience member becomes more prominent as your energy can affect the energy of the performers, and vice versa. Strange things, sometimes amazing and sometimes disastrous, can happen in the middle of a live show.

2. Stagecraft. The technical aspects of theatre are flat-out cool. I love looking at the sets, the costume design, and the props. Some of the things that can be done with lighting are fascinating. It’s possible I fell in love with theatre the first day I got to “fly.” (Although actually, I think it was probably a year earlier when I got to do my own lion makeup.)

3. Less predictable. In some ways, plays are similar to movies: they’re both visual mediums of about the same length that tell a story and can use enhancements like special effects and music to enrich the narrative. But plays, by and large, aren’t as formulaic as most Hollywood blockbusters. They experiment with structure. They experiment with plot. And they sometimes use interesting framing devices.

4. More Bechdel test passes. Women talk to other women in plays about something besides a man all the time. It’s almost like there have been plays written in the twenty-first century or something.

5. Meaty themes. Many plays deal with deep and interesting subject matter. Various plays I’ve seen this year have dealt with: the ethics behind cloning; the process of grieving a dead spouse and moving on; dysfunctional families, mental illness, and secrets; feminism; and the sacrifices made in the name of doing what you believe in. To list just a few.

6. Great dialogue. Most plays rely heavily on dialogue to tell their story. And the best writers have it down: Snappy exchanges reminiscent of the screwball comedies of the ‘40s, passionate and hilarious monologues, quirky character tics, the works.

7. Fabulous humor. I laugh more and louder while watching certain plays than doing pretty much anything else. There is a lot of dark humor and dry humor done in the theatre today, as well as more old-school slapstick if that’s your thing.

8. Transformative experiences. When I’ve seen a good play, I walk out of the theatre a different person than when I walked in. I’ve been challenged, I’ve thought about things in a new way, and I’ve often had a very emotional experience.

What has your experience been with theatre? What makes you love it? What has turned you off about it?

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Not enough people have heard of this little gem, even though it won the Tony Award for best original score in 2005 (Spamalot won the Tony for best musical that year, but let’s not even go there).  The music is so beautiful, it makes me feel like there’s something inside me stretching towards the sky, and that’s really the top attraction for this show. The story line is interesting enough, the character development for the main mother character is well done, and the lyrics are passable although on the whole nothing special.  And given the music they accompany, they almost feel beside the point (which is particularly telling since I am usually all about the lyrics). 

The Light in the Piazza is not a “belty” show, as are most of the new shows we’ve been seeing on Broadway.  No, Adam Guettel draws less on rock and pop music and more on opera and classical music to create his romantic score, filled with soaring violins and Classically trained voices.  It’s possible that this choice is partly why the show isn’t more widely known, but I’m glad he made it just the same. The lush music suits the story and the setting (Florence , Italy).

My local theater company put this show on last fall, and after one of the performances I heard an audience member mention that the story was “creepy”.  Or maybe she said “strange”.  This reaction might also factor into the relative obscurity of the show.  I actually really like the story, although I will admit it’s challenging in that it takes a lot of thought, and it also depends a lot upon the interpretation of the role of Clara.  The general idea is that Clara, now 26, was in an accident when she was eleven or twelve that froze her mental and emotional development, so ever since she has led a very sheltered existence.  But now she and her mother are on holiday in Italy, and suddenly love strikes from the sky like lightning.  One of the questions the show pivots around is, exactly how impaired is Clara?  This is a question that is never answered explicitly, so one just has to guess.  Is she, as her mother finally comes to believe, capable of more than they’d assumed?  Can she aspire to a “normal” life with a husband and possibly even children?  Is she mature enough to truly love?  Or, is this all wishful thinking doomed to dreadful disappointment?  Plus we explore the obligations of disclosure (how much does the mother have to tell Clara’s lover? What about his family?) and we watch events shape and change Clara’s mother, whose worldview has been turned on its head by the end of the show. An ironic twist that happens mid-way through Act 2 highlights the differing values of the two families in question.

The fact is, a lot of these issues and questions are uncomfortable, so I can understand why audience members might be uneasy afterwards.  But for me, this is the best kind of theater: theater that makes me re-evaluate myself and how I see the world, and that leaves an open question.

A few favorite moments, both from the Second Act:

“The Light in the Piazza”, sung by Clara in Rome, when she wishes to return to Florence (and the man she’s fallen in love with).  One of my personal favorites to sing.

 

“Fable”, sung by Clara’s mother Margaret at the end of the show.  This song is truly epic.

 

Ah, so beautiful!  If you like what you’ve heard, “Dividing Day,” “The Beauty Is,” and “Let’s Walk” are also songs worthy of attention. I’ll definitely be on the look-out for any new work by this promising composer.

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