Apropos of nothing, last night I had a variation of the standard anxiety dream that comes without fail about a week before opening night when I am performing in a play. I have no idea why. I haven’t been in a play in over a year and have no plans to audition. Yet, there it was – the “I’m not prepared for this!” dream. Rather than the usual dream in which I am on stage and realize that I don’t know my lines until I am saying my lines (which brings even more terror than just totally blanking on them, for some reason), in this dream, unbeknownst to the cast, our director had invited an audience to watch our first read-through. The part I remember most clearly is trying to change into a new outfit before the curtains were opened at intermission while fumbling for my misplaced script.
Ahhh. Good times. Seriously, the terror and feelings of ineptitude, the way they magically vanished like morning fog upon waking, the whole, damn anxiety dream phenomena, takes me back to some good times. Theater is amazing fun. It is a hot mess of total crazy-town, but it is fun. Here are some things that being a theater geek has taught me…most of them about theater itself.
1. Sociologists studying human drama need look no further than their local community theater.
I’m not just talking about Broadway and London kind of drama – although I’m pretty sure the way things play out on (and behind) those stages are only different by degree than the way they play out in a million small towns across America – I mean a more global kind of drama. Gangs of junior high students have nothing on a community theater production when it comes to giddy highs and hair-pulling lows. BFFs, bullies, cronies, folks who just keep their heads down when the shit hits the fan? We got ‘em. Tattle-tales, heroes and heroines, busy-bodies, and smarty-pants? Oh yeah, we got ‘em. Seriously, why Bravo hasn’t created a reality show around community theater baffles me. The collective fury of a cast toward that one damn actor who can never remember his effing lines alone would be enough to drive 3 episodes.
2. Showmances are the BEST. Also, showmances are the WORST.
Sometimes, shows have a touch of magic to them. The cast, director, stage manager – everyone – just gets along. Rehearsals are fun more often than they are grueling, folks get together for drinks after rehearsals whenever they can, cast members are so amiable they meet to run lines even when not required, and everyone kind of falls love with each other. There are inside jokes. There is a spirit of helpfulness – you help me remember my lines and I’ll help you make sense of your chicken-scratch blocking notes. There is shared excitement at taking that stage together and putting on a show, never knowing exactly how the audience will react, which lines will be dropped, which recovered, which scenes will leave the crowd breathless and which will fall flat, just knowing that afterward everyone will hug and have a good laugh.
At the heart of these magic shows, there is often a unique kind of magic between Boy and Girl that is known in the theater world as a Showmance. Take everything above and add in hella-hot sexual tension, and you’ve got the makings of a special kind of infatuation not known to many in the plain ol’ real world. When it is good, it is so good.
In my experience (both personal and vicarious), showmances almost always survive the show in which Boy and Girl meet. It’s when Boy and Girl try to continue on after the show that things go poorly. There are a lot of reasons for this – the common goal has been removed, as well as the common circle of friends who meet on a regular basis; the heightened excitement of performance, seeing each other on stage and the thrill that comes with it, is gone too. Often, a new show brings a new leading lady or leading man and things get ugly.
When these relationships that started with all the joy of a pile of kittens end, it’s like the end of Camelot; like the crushed dreams of a million unicorns. But maybe that’s just me.
3. New York City IS all it’s cracked up to be.
The first time I saw a show on Broadway, I was shocked by how small the theater was. I imagined chandeliers and thousands of seats with fancy cushions and, I don’t know, butlers at each aisle or something. The truth is much, much better. There are 100s of theaters, of all shapes and sizes. At any given time, you can see something amazing and with a little patience and know-how, you can see it for much less than you might expect. Use TKTS, enter the lottery, take your time. You will be a better person for seeing these shows, I tell you!
4. An empty stage is a powerful place.
There is something about walking on to an empty stage, in an empty theater, that makes me nostalgic for the present, past and future. I love getting to rehearsals early and taking in the energy of the stage. It breathes. It holds all the energy of the actors and characters who have walked across it, their dropped lines and laughs, their tears and awkwardly choreographed fights, all the bad sets and good times that surround them. I tell you, there is nothing like it.
Seriously, Smash is a great show. I’m not sure why more people don’t know this. It captures all elements of the previous items on this list perfectly. The musical-within the show is fantastic, the acting spot-on, and the chemistry of the entire cast, flawless. Even the plot centering around Angelica Houston finding funding for the musical is somehow compelling. I don’t get it, but everything about this show triggers all my reward centers. You should really be watching. Against all odds, NBC picked it up for next season. Huzzah!
Since starting this list, I have thought of at least three more items I could include, so look for the sequel to discuss the counter-intuitive nature of stage directions, the dangers and thrills of having a boyfriend or girlfriend in New York, and the power of the neon lights on Broadway.
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- Interviews (19)
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- Nostalgia (17)
- Sandman Re-Read (11)
- Three Favorite Things (4)
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