I listen to Broadway show tunes all day (such luxury), and I have some kind of relationship with a lot of the songs I hear. I was in the show/lit the show/stage managed the show/directed the show…well, you get the idea. I was an active participator in producing the magic. So that explains why I love the productions I was a part of, but it does not explain why I would spend three hours of my life watching other people accept awards for shows I will never get to see in their original form. But watching the Tonys on Sunday night, I felt free to cheer, clap and occasionally sneer at what I was watching, and I had no obvious skin in that game.
How is it that we who love theatre have such a stake in it? We watch it, discuss it, read it, plan for pilgrimages to Broadway like the most rabid Cardinals fan waits for the Series. We OWN this slippery stuff, that disappears as soon as its created, and appears different to everyone who watches it. We know that whether the show is free or costs hundreds of dollars it”s still going to say something about us as human beings in a way that makes us feel. We try to explain to the unchurched that they can own it too and they just politely allow us our eccentricities.
We need to figure out a vocabulary that extends this sense of a relevant, living art form that is meaningful to everyone.
I’m going to see An Illiad tonight. It’s a story that’s part of our collective consciousness – we all know it as once upon a time…but we’ve all been touched by what rage brings us to, and how once we’ve gotten in it’s very difficult to get out again.
I was emailing with Sean about the relevance of theatre nowadays (because I don’t care what’s on your theatre marquee, all of us are trying to reach people who need to discover what they can get from an evening watching a play), and thinking about the classics. Then I dug this up.
The present leads us directly to the past. And when we watch it, we can see choices, and consequences, and draw parallels between what was written and what currently exists in our world. Even if it’s an evening of pure escapism, there’s an element of truth – we recognize ourselves in what’s happening onstage.
I’m still working on the drawing-people-in piece, because I think it’s important for us as a society to discover (and rediscover) the issues we’ve been mulling over for a human lifetime – who falls in love and dies tragically while others live happily ever after, who draws the line in the sand, how are we alike, how are we different. I think it’s more immediate, more real when you see it in a theatre setting. Not because the people are sometimes only inches away from you, but because you’re not pushing the pause button, rescued from the tension by a commercial, or turning it off to finish it later when you have time. At the theatre you can’t escape. And when the story is an ancient one and we still see ourselves repeating it…well, it’s very old news, indeed.