Thursday, December 31, 2009

the end is nigh

I’m on the theatre a bit of late and this piece in the NYTimes once again piqued my interest. The main article is all well-and-good but the three or so pages of comments are more interesting. We you read, even in the abbreviated encounters with the contributors, are the smallest of insight into people’s lives. I’ve always held the view that live performance, whether rock n’ roll or on the stage, is the purest form of bonding between people; not only between performers and audience but between the audience members themselves. Everyone leaves the theatre in discussion about what they just saw and how it may have injected some new tangle of life in them. The ‘performance’ is more grand than reading – something different and just as special – because when we’re sitting in our seats we see the same thing and our mind’s eye is no longer the prime motivator behind our visions of a story. Whether I’m watching opera, drama, comedy, improv, or a musical, I rarely forget that every moment of the performance is given as a personal gift to me. They are showing me the perfection of their art; and I get to take it home and let if wave in and out of my mind.

I don’t know that I can think back to a play that changed my life. I well remember my first big production was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat back in the early 1980s in Chicago. My aunt and uncle had tickets and we all drove into the city for the show; I remember my prius and post feelings: first, I didn’t much want to be dragged to a theatre to watch a play. Second, I was amazed at how much I enjoy it. Maybe that’s a “change life” moment but I consider it more as exposure and not genesis, per se. I saw a few shows while living in England but the process work of picking dates, getting tickets, and heading to London was outweighed the enjoyment of the show. Moving to the D.C. area in 2006 would probably merit more consideration in ‘life changing’ theatre than the others. I hadn’t been here too long before WonderTwin 2 hooked us up with tickets to The Tempest at Keegan one Sunday afternoon. Once you live in a vibrant theatre city you realize, if you care much about it, that going to shows isn’t much different than heading to the movies: there are loads of companies and shows running year round. After The Tempest I started looking and organizing the scene in D.C. and subscribing to the Washington National Opera, Woolly Mammoth, and Keegan, while keeping an eye out for bigger shows and other theatre’s play lists. Of all those that we, or I, have attended a few stand out over the last three years (A Streetcar..., aside): The Hostage at the Keegan and Lost in Yonkers at the DCJCC Theatre J. The Hostage stands out because it moved effortlessly between comedy, drama, and musical with all the actors and actresses capable of each style. I find the idea of a multi-talented song-and-dance-and comedy trooper quite romantic. Lost in came to me as what I think of as a perfect ‘play’ (I guess Neil Simon knows his stuff), or what I’d imagine as a perfectly developed stage piece.

Just as with the comments in the Times’ article, I think that we don’t necessarily equate our most important event of any sort directly to quality; oftentimes, the timing in our lives is far more powerful. I can only imagine living in NYC as a child and going to see Annie of Oliver on Broadway when young. Even if you became a live-long lover of theatre there’d never be another that held as strong as a childhood event. I find it an interesting exercise to think back and not necessarily draft a list of best but to gather a group of most impressive.

See? I am staying away from lists.

Happy New Year.


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