It’s Live!

When was the last time you went to see a play, musical, or show? I sincerely hope it hasn’t been too long. If it’s been a while, there’s a piece of you that needs to be awakened…and will be as a result.

I liken seeing the live performance of a play or musical to having something resurrected within me. As I sit and watch I feel joy, get chills, experience pathos and sadness, and see myself reflected in the story. I get to view life from a different perspective. I see the human experience up close. I am a richer person having had the opportunity to lose myself in a live story, re-presented by living, breathing people.

One of my favorite quotes about theatre comes from Cathleen McGuigan, who wrote a piece for Newsweek:

The experience of theater is one of the few satisfying live entertainments available in our virtual culture. There’s nothing quite like the risky thrill of sharing a space with breathing, sweating actors—with no possibility of editing, photoshopping, voice dubbing or blue-screen special effects. The relationship between the characters onstage and each member of the audience who’s willing to suspend disbelief is a unique, delicate and deeply personal experience.

I got to experience that again recently as I watched a young lady do a cabaret type performance the Senior Project of her B.F.A. in acting. (Disclaimer: No, it wasn’t my daughter…although she did have a small part in one of the pieces.) The actress used the cabaret format to explore love and relationships from the female perspective. She did songs from 110 in the Shade, Guys and Dolls, The Last Five Years, Into the Woods, Avenue Q, and Legally Blonde. I learned some new songs. I was drawn in by her emotion. I thought about life in a different way. As the actors said on an old Saturday Night Live skit: “I laughed, I cried, it was better than Cats.”

The great thing about live theatre is just that: It’s Live! It not only brings a story to life, it brings life to a story. It draws the audience in and asks each member to do two seemingly contradictory things at the same time: 1. Suspend disbelief; and 2. Believe that the story is her or his own.

I guess that’s why whenever I watch most any kind of (good) live performance I feel more alive myself. I feel tears welling up as the performance brings to the surface heartaches and hard times in my own life. I feel exhilaration as the performance brings to the surface particular joys from my own life. I find myself re-thinking a situation in my own life as I see it literally being played out on stage. I even feel melancholy as the performance drudges up my own regrets, failures, or simply a time that has long since passed. Even the melancholy that I feel makes me feel living and alive.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that theatre expresses emotion and shows the diamond facets of life. It’s living. And it’s live. And I love it.

What is it that makes you feel truly alive? What particular performance drew something new out of you?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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4 thoughts on “It’s Live!

  1. At Concordia Austin, Dr. Milton Riemer taught a class called "The Experience of Drama": a one credit-hour class with a contract grade that could be re-taken indefinitely. See eight plays, write eight one-paragraph critiques, get a B. Add two plays on your own and write two more critiques, get an A. Because of him my wife and I saw 80 plays during our four years at college … and became Theater junkies! Part of the thrill for me is that I'm watching art at it's most visceral: they are creating something truly original right in front of my senses! Nuances can change … tones and hues can be accentuated … emotions can enter in unexpectedly. The audience is part of the creation, feeding the actors. We're ALL creators … even the least creative of us.

    As a father, live theater encourages me in my story-telling. It teaches me that literature is drama … that the human-ness of it can only be brought to the reading by me. My kids delight in the "acted reading" that I do, feeding me in the exhilaration of the act of art.

    As for a performance that changed me: Talley's Folley, early 80s, Repertory Theater of St. Louis. Epiphany! Two people on stage creating love, living pain, teaching me that we are all eggs—good for nothing until we're broken, whisked, and made into an omlette!

    Thanks for making me think these things through, Tom!



  2. Last weekend, my family had the opportunity to see Hairspray presented by the students of Faith Lutheran High School in Las Vegas. I really enjoyed the performance. Under the direction of Emily Ball with the help of her husband Erik, the actors put their heart and soul in the performance. What made the experience more enjoyable was that I personally know three of the performers and four of the members of the orchestra.

    I try to see most of the productions presented by the Middle School and High School. Last fall, the High School performed a current adaption of Romero and Juliet. I hate to admit it, but that was the first time I saw Romero and Juliet performed.

      • Yes it did. It was a great way to spend Mother’s Day.

        It also reminded me of the three times I performed. During my junior year at MLHS, I acted in The School for Scandal and A Midsummer's Night Dream. A great experience. Unfortunately, I needed to work during my senior year, so the opportunity was short lived.

        Of course, I met you during the Funny Girl experience under your father’s direction. I wish there was a copy of the performance, to prove to my daughters that dad did have a life back then.