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?