Saturday, July 17, 2021

That Old Stage Magic

We went to the play last night.

There was a time when this was simply part of the rhythm of our lives. Both Oliver and Lauren were involved in theater during their time at Local Businessman HS – backstage, mostly carrying on the family tradition of running a spotlight – and many of their friends were as well. We’d go see the latest musical (generally an extravaganza with a budget bigger than what my high school spent on theater during the entire time I was there, even adjusted for inflation) or play (smaller scale and less polished, but often more fun because of it), sit among the sold-out crowd (Our Little Town supports these plays incredibly well) and enjoy the experience.

That was before the pandemic, of course. We’d actually planned to see the spring musical in March 2020 – even had tickets for the second weekend, because you have to get them in advance if you want to get them at all – and while the first weekend went off well the second weekend got canceled because the world caught fire in the interim. They eventually did put together a livestreamed version with just a couple of parents in the actual theater for an audience and it was lovely but not the same.

So it’s been a year and a half since we went to one of these.

Also, Lauren has now graduated and the way the summer theater program works is that you can only participate if you’ll be back in the fall. They do take younger kids – there were a few middle-schoolers up onstage last night – but not older ones. Plus she spent her junior year abroad and her senior year mostly online, so she knows very few of the younger kids. None of her friends were involved. All of Oliver’s friends have long since moved on. Honestly the only person I recognized onstage last night was the daughter of some friends of ours, who did a marvelous job as one of the female leads.

I’m used to looking for familiar faces. Time moves on.

But there we were, surrounded by people we hoped were as fully vaccinated as ourselves, taking it all in for the first time since 2019. They did a good job with it – quite possibly a better job than the play could really support, but that is the fault of the writers and not the cast and crew. We had a grand time.

There is something about being in a theater watching a play that cannot be matched through a screen, even with a livestreamed performance. We are collective beings, we humans – a fact that we forget at our peril and which entire political ideologies do their best to make us forget. The shared experience of things is what makes them come alive in ways that the thing itself cannot equal on its own.

Slowly, haltingly, and against great resistance from far too many people who seem to think that if they believe something strongly enough it will magically become real, it seems that we are working our way back toward some semblance of socializing again. It can still be lost, but for the moment it is good to celebrate progress.

We went to the play last night. It was good.


LucyInDisguise said...

Dateline: 1972
Place: South High School, SLC, UT
Senior Musical: Brigadoon

They actually pulled it off. Production was so well done that when I tried to rewatch the movie a few years later, I was deeply disappointed in the movie. And Gene Kelley is on my list of favorite performers! This performance is tough to top:

Yes, we are a collective. Something magical happens to people in theatre that can't be explained, it must be experienced.

(Except ballet. Not sure how any of that works. My mother took me to see The Nutcracker five times. Still don't think I could sit thru that without being held at gunpoint. I'd rather do opera. And I can only do that in short snippets! - and that's primarily because of the stuffed shirts (that mystifyingly insist on formal dress) in the audience. 😁)

Theatre is one of the very few things I miss about large cities. Very few things. Another would be dining choices - but that is another story altogether.


David said...

Honestly I feel the same way about the production of Jesus Christ, Superstar that we did in college - the movie was a bit of a disappointment after that.

They did Brigadoon down at Local Businessman HS before the plague and did a nice job of it. It's not my favorite play in the world, but it was good to see them do so well with it.

Theater definitely does have to be experienced with an audience, though.

I've seen The Nutcracker a few times and it's okay. I think my favorite moment came the last time I saw it, when my kids were very small and they had a production down at Home Campus. There was a long solo dance that was broken into two parts, and the audience applauded at the break before the dancer continued. "I'm done clapping," said a 4-year-old Oliver when the dancer started up again. "Why is she still dancing?" Good question, kid.

I have only ever been to one opera and I literally have no memory of it whatever other than the fact that it was in a theater in Pittsburgh. Apparently not my thing.

Theater and dining choices are good enough reasons to enjoy cities, I think.

Ewan said...


We have, now: Plane tickets (family wedding, Utah, September. Planned to include canyon north rim, Zion, Bryce. Planes... yeeks.)
Theatre tickets (both our local pre-broadway series, all rescheduled from last two years, and - just now! - for Hadestown on Broadway).
And we're finishing up a birthday weekend for me, delayed from last year also, with grad school friends at a large AirBnB in VT.
So far, so good.

The planes thing - and a bit the theatre thing - well, not pending money that I cannot afford to lose if it comes to that.

David said...

Well, good luck with it Ewan! And happy birthday!

I think things will be okay as long as you're vaccinated. The majority of Americans are now, and as long as progress continues to be made (even slower than hoped for progress) I suspect that setbacks won't lead to the kind of mass cancellations that we saw last year. I hope not, anyway. I've been wrong before.

I've been on two round-trip flights to Philadelphia this year (one in April and one just last week) and they are a bit of an odd experience. Every one of the four individual flights was completely packed - not one empty seat combined - but they do a good job with the mask mandate and I haven't seen anyone get stupid with the flight crew yet despite all the news reports. Airport security is what it used to be or possibly slightly faster.

That sounds like quite a wedding trip. We did a similar trip in June of 2016, minus the wedding part - Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, etc. - it's all on the blog. Beautiful country in a "thank the deity of your choice that I don't have to live there" kind of way. We had a grand time, and I hope you do too!

LucyInDisguise said...

"Beautiful country in a "thank the deity of your choice that I don't have to live there" kind of way."

That is, hands down, the best description of Utardia that I have ever read.

Enjoy your trip, Ewan.

Permanently Former Utardian,