- When one of your coworkers at the newspaper emails you at 7am asking if you’re free to cover a review for him that night in Massachusetts, even though the show starts at 8:30pm and it’s over an hour away and you have to write the review when you get home in order to make the deadline and then get up for work the next morning at 7:30am at latest, you say yes. Because you’ve never been to Massachusetts, you’ve never been to this theater and you hear it’s one of the best in the area, and you really like the playwright and haven’t seen this particular play of his yet.
- Sometimes, you just need an adventure all on your own, even if it’s a little scary, because it’s something you have to prove to yourself you can do.
- The drive to Lenox, Massachusetts from Albany is very pretty. First it’s all city city city, then it’s all highway highway boring blah, then it starts to be very green and rural and the air smells nice and clean.
- There’s a huge “Massachusetts Welcomes You” sign once you cross the border on I-90. You’re totally allowed to cheer and say “THANK YOU I FEEL VERY WELCOMED, MASSACHUSETTS!” and bop around in your seat a little.
- When you cross the border into Massachusetts, it looks very much like New York. You might think there would be unicorns or something along those lines, but you would be wrong. It’s the same. Which is a little disappointing.
- Having a billion songs (give or take a billion) on your phone is the best thing ever. It totally beats having to bring a bunch of CDs and change the CDs and almost drive off the road every time you do it. You just put the phone on shuffle and you’re good to go. Added bonus: you know all the songs so you can sing along loudly and off-key. Especially since you’re alone in the car so you’re not bothering your passenger.
- There are a lot of tollbooths between Albany and Lenox. Another awesome bit of technology: the EZ Pass. Which even works in other states. You may not be aware of this and think you’re in trouble because you don’t have any cash on you. Nope! EZ Pass is accepted all over the land. (“Of course it is, Amy, SIGH,” said Dad. Sorry, Dad, I’m not much of a world traveler.)
- Once you get off the highway, Lenox is a lovely little town. It looks old-fashionedy and pretty and there are a lot of trees and old stores and houses. It was utterly charming.
- Your GPS will sometimes take you down roads that look like no one’s driven on them in a billion years. “Why are you trying to kill me, GPS?” you might say to it. I mean, if you were the type to talk to inanimate objects. Which of course I am. “This is where killers live in the trees, GPS. I don’t know what I’ve done to you to deserve this kind of Texas Chainsaw Massacre death, really.”
- Suddenly, you will come upon a little road with a sign for the theater and you will apologize profusely to your GPS for doubting it.
- Shakespeare & Company is not just a theater. It is a THEATER COMPLEX. It is a NUMBER of theaters all on what seems to be an old farm. There are signs pointing to each of the theaters telling you what’s playing at each one. It’s all landscaped and there are trees and water and little fairy lights in the trees and it might well be one of the most beautiful, magical places for theater to happen you’ve ever seen in your life. You might drive around with your mouth open like a gigantic country rube. Hypothetically.
- The theater was beautiful, the show was amazing, the employees were very nice without being weird about it (sometimes theater employees are overly solicitous to reviewers, and it’s a little off-putting) and there were a LOT of rich people there. Apparently, Lenox is rich-people land. Whoa. You may be a little underdressed amongst all the snazzy people since it was dress-down day at work and you are wearing jeans and a shirt that started the day nice enough, but ended the day a little wilted.
- On the drive home, the night was as clear as could be, and without all the ambient light from the city, the stars were so bright they were the stars from every poem ever. They were FIRMAMENT stars. And the moon started out as a light orangey-red and slowly morphed to an almost coppery-amber, and it was a perfect crescent moon. It is completely allowed to marvel in the night.
- You can make it to Massachusetts and back and see a very fancy play all by yourself even if you are completely directionally challenged. You will feel very good about this. Very proud of yourself. And very happy you have such a job that allows you to do such things.
- You will not, however, feel so proud of yourself the next morning since you stayed up until 2am finishing the review and it is a very long day of work and a LOT of crazy people will call needing your attention and you don’t have a lot of it to give. You will yawn a lot. A WHOLE lot. You also have to grocery shop after work because you are out of milk and cheese, and dairy is really kind of a staple food group. I mean, it’s on the food pyramid and everything.
- You may have plans to stay up late and talk to Andreas with your face between 11pm and 12am Saturday night but when he emails you right after 11pm you will sadly beg off because you are falling asleep over your laptop. You are sad about this because Andreas is one of your most favorite humans. He does, however, understand, and tells you to get a good night’s sleep because he is, without a doubt, one of the most caring people you know. You are very tired, and someone caring about your sleep this much makes you cry a little, which is a thing you do when you are very tired. You make plans to talk to him tomorrow when you wake up. This seems like a very good plan.
- You collapse into bed and sleep for EIGHT STRAIGHT HOURS. You would have slept longer, but for some reason, your beloved but mentally deficient cat decides to leap on your face after you’ve slept for 8 hours. Apparently, he thought that was enough. He didn’t need food or water. Just attention. That was what precipitated the early-morning face-leap.
- You realize you cannot talk to Andreas until you put yourself together, because not only did you sleep for 8 hours, you slept HARD. You look like you’ve been hit by a truck. A truck full of cast-iron pans. And in just a few hours you have to go BACK to Massachusetts to see ANOTHER play and also meet friend C. for lunch.
- You put yourself together so you look less like a highway accident victim and more like a human being. (Note: Andreas probably wouldn’t have cared. Sometimes you talk to Andreas in your pajamas. Andreas is very understanding and doesn’t care if you look like a weirdo. Or, if he does, he’s too nice to mention it.)
- You talk to Andreas for an hour. His family all make an appearance, including the dog, and you cannot stop smiling. Andreas is a balm that cures many ills.
- You attempt to get some things done but fail miserably because the internets keep distracting you from your goal. It’s a thing that happens more often than you’re willing to admit.
- You take off for Pittsfield. Pittsfield is not an easy of a drive as Lenox, because you can’t take the highway all the way. You have to take a lot of little tiny roads where the speed limit is 30 and, randomly, there are a lot of cops. You sigh a lot.
- You make it to Pittsfield and your GPS hates one-way streets and refuses to help you find the theater. You instead find the restaurant and go in and almost cry all over the bartender telling her you can’t find the theater where you’re supposed to meet friend C. She is more scared of you than understanding, to be honest. She gives you directions to the theater, which is randomly a couple blocks away. When you leave to go to your car, Friend C. is outside. She is also unable to find the theater. Her GPS has also refused to bring her there. However, since you are at the restaurant, you decide to eat.
- The food is kind of meh, but the company couldn’t be better, so it all balances out. When you have known someone for almost twenty years, you are never really at a loss for conversation.
- You take off for the theater and are kind of embarrassed at how easy it is to find when you know where it is. You mentally apologize for almost crying on the bartender.
- The show is good. Quite good. It’s just not your thing. However, some people like pretty, brainless musicals, so if that’s their thing, they will like this show very much. There are a couple people in the show that are very good, so you watch them with the most joy. And randomly, one of the songs makes you think of something that it wasn’t even supposed to make you think of, and it wasn’t even especially sad, and you might start leaking at the eyes a little bit. Then you have a moment where you think about how memories sometimes ninja sneak-attack you and make a completely benign song suddenly the most tear-inducing thing you’ve ever listened to.
- You say goodbye to friend C. and make plans to do it all over again at the end of the month which will be the most fun because you weren’t sure when you would see her again and drive home through all the teeny-tiny streets past all the cops.
- You make it home in time for True Blood and half-watch while writing your review. Even half-watching True Blood is enough to know it is still quite terrible. However, Eric is still the prettiness.
- You quickly write sj an email recapping True Blood which is the best part of True Blood and collapse in bed because it is now almost Monday and time for the week ahead which has even MORE things to do in it.
- You have weird dreams for no apparently reason other than your brain runs like a hamster on a wheel sometimes and you wake up enough times that the cat gets fed up with you and goes to sleep elsewhere.
- Suddenly, bam, it is Monday, and your weekend is over. And look at all the things you have done! You are a ROCK STAR. You went to a new state! You went to two new theaters! You saw two shows you’ve never seen! You got to hang out with friend C.! You got to talk to Andreas with your face!
- You can now rest. Until the next adventure. Which, knowing you, will be any minute now.
- You are most definitely queen of all the adventures.
- MOST definitely.
Category Archives: Theater
I moved here in September 2002. I started looking for something to do in the area not long afterward; I knew if I just stayed home all the time and did nothing, I’d not only drive myself insane, I’d drive my poor roommate there with me.
I called one local theater and they called me back, but something there seemed off, so I decided that one was out. Then I went to see Cloud 9 at another local theater, and I fell crazy in love. With the theater – an old firehouse that just felt like a theater, the minute you walked in – with the actors, who did the best version of the show I’d ever seen – and with the direction, which was brilliant. This was the theater I wanted to work at. This was where I was meant to be.
The other theater was five minutes from my house in an area I was comfortable with and had a parking lot; this theater was twenty minutes away (in normal, non-rush-hour traffic) in a somewhat-sketchy area I knew nothing about, had on-street parking (and never enough of it) and meant I had to (GULP!) drive on the HIGHWAY.
I’ve never taken the easy way, have I? Nope.
I signed up in the lobby in the volunteer book and thought if I heard from them at all, it wouldn’t be soon. A couple weeks later, I got a call from someone at the theater. “You said you have experience running a light and sound board on your sheet,” she said. “Yes…?” I said. “YOU DO? Want to run the light and sound boards for our next show in a couple of weeks? We could REALLY use you,” she said.
(Side note: she now runs the box office at the fancy theater here, yo. Love you, J.!)
I walked in petrified. I didn’t know these people. Was this even a good idea? I mean, yes, I needed to get out of the house, and I missed theater. But these were STRANGERS. It had been YEARS since I ran the booth for a show. What if I screwed up? These people were GOOD. They might HATE me.
I think I said about three words to anyone for that entire show. I was this scared little mouse in the booth. But I didn’t screw up the lighting or the sound. And the next thing I knew, I was stage managing the next show of the season. And then the next show. And sometimes running either the light or sound board or both. Doing props. Working backstage. And when, a year later, they asked me to be on the board of directors. I don’t know if I was ever happier.
I moved through positions on the board: trustee at large, secretary, vice president of production, artistic director. I worked on show after show after show. I stage managed, produced, worked box office, worked the light and sound boards, did crew work, acted (a little, and not well, I know my limitations, people), ran auditions, worked hospitality, publicity. You name it, I’ve probably done it.
Eight years, I’ve been on the board there. I’ve met some of my closest local friends while working there. I’ve learned so many things there, had so many opportunities to do things I’d never gotten to do before. I’ve seen such amazing work happen on that stage. I’ve laughed until I’ve cried and cried until I’ve laughed. I took such pride in being the artistic director of one of the oldest community theaters in the area. I did good work. I worked very hard to put up shows that I believed in, that people would both enjoy and that would broaden their horizons, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, as well as make us money.
Being on the board led to my job as a theater reviewer. It led to my current full-time job; I met friend A. there, and he sent me the job posting, and now I work with him. Being on the board led to me knowing most of our local actors; knowing more theater than I ever thought I would; being someone that came up in conversation as part of the local theater scene, a theater scene I could not be more proud of.
Tuesday night was my last official board meeting.
I chose to step down. It was my choice. It’s been an amazing eight years, but it’s been a lot of work. A lot of time. A lot of time I haven’t had for myself. A lot of times where I missed other things, other opportunities. I’m starting to wilt. It’s stopped being fun. And I’ve always said, when something stops being fun, you have to stop doing it, not only for your own sanity, but for the people around you; your mood directly affects them.
I know it’s for the best; it’s opening up a whole new world for me. I have plans for all this time. I have things I’ve been putting off that I’ll finally have time to do. I’ll be able to sleep more. My stress level will be lower. This is for the best.
But just because something’s for the best doesn’t mean that it’s not hard, walking away from something that’s been such a part of your identity for so long. Nine years. Almost the whole time I’ve lived here. The theater’s been my main social interaction for all those years. It’s been me. I’ve been Amy, who works at the theater. It’s hard not to feel a little lost, even if it is the right thing, and I’m doing it for all the right reasons.
I’ll be the artistic director for a little less than a month, still. The new artistic director doesn’t start until next month. This was my last board meeting, however; I accidentally bought a ticket to see Neil Gaiman on the night of our annual meeting next month, so this is it for me. (Sorry, I’m not missing Gaiman. I’d have to hand in my geek card if I did. Plus…well, goodbyes are sad; goodbyes at the annual meeting, in front of all those people? SUPER-sad. Plus also pretty embarrassing.) I could always go back. I could always work at another theater. If I get bored, if I start missing theater, maybe I will, but I’ll be taking a good long break first.
This is the right thing to do.
I handed in the keys that have been hanging on my keychain for eight years tonight. I said my goodbyes, which weren’t as sad as they probably should have been. I know this is the right move for me.
I did, however, sit in the car for a little bit and look at the theater, and say a goodbye to it privately. The woman who, nine years ago, sat in her car, afraid to go in; the woman who, nine years later, sat in her car, afraid to leave.
Nine years there, eight of them on the board. The next time I come back, I’ll be a patron. Or a volunteer. I won’t work there anymore.
Just because something’s the right thing to do doesn’t always mean it’s the easy choice to make.
There is only one thing I fear in life, my friend… One day the black will swallow the red.
I see a lot of plays. I get paid for it now, for one thing. But I don’t just see plays I get paid for. I’m more than a little addicted. I see as many as I feasibly can. We’ve discussed this, at length; as a child, I always dreamed of living the kind of life where I could go to the theater whenever I wanted. I am lucky enough to live that kind of life now, and I honor that wide-eyed teenager every time I buy my ticket (or am blessed enough to get a reviewer’s comp) and sit in a seat in a darkened theater and let the actors spin their web around me.
They’re not always good. That’s the thing about any art form, really; some will be very, very good, some will be so, so terrible, and some will be just middle-of-the-road. This can be because of any number of things: the actors, the direction, the set, the costumes, the writing. It’s also sometimes because of the baggage you bring to the table, which is something that’s often overlooked; the play could be wonderful, but you might hate it because one of the characters reminds you too much of your abusive ex or your unstable mother-in-law or the set is just too reminiscient of the unhappy home you grew up in. It’s very seldom that everything comes together perfectly. It’s (and I know this is going to surprise you, since, as the Irish say, my bladder is close to my eyes) seldom I cry in the theater; all of these elements coming together perfectly doesn’t happen very often, and in order for me to cry IN FRONT OF PEOPLE (a thing I don’t often do, as weepy as I am – my crying is almost always a very personal and very private affair) the stars really have to align.
Today I saw a play that made all the stars line up perfectly. Better than that: it made me think. It’s still making me think, hours later.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a huge art person. I mean, I love art. I respect art, and appreciate art, and love going to see art. But I couldn’t tell you what makes good art, not really. Or how it makes me feel.
What really impresses me, more so than the art itself, are artists. The creativity behind making a work of art. The thought process. The type of mind that can come up with something like that. And the demons that live in a mind like that. I lump all artists into this category, by the way, not just traditional sculptors and painters. Writers, musicians, actors, dancers, anyone who creates something new that wasn’t there before. I believe that all artists have something in common, whether or not it’s obvious; that creation holds a madness in it. Whether it holds it at bay or it brings it to the forefront depends on the artist. Anyone who is creative, especially one who is good at what they do, walks a fine line with the darkness in their mind.
Red is about Mark Rothko. I knew very little about Rothko going into the show. I knew he was a painter; I knew he was an impressionist. I knew his paintings were blocks of color, almost painful to look at in their intensity.
Other than that, very little. My artistic education was lacking. I’ll be the first to admit it. We didn’t discuss art in high school, and in college, as long as you were taking some sort of art classes, you were covered, and my art was the billions of theater classes I was taking.
The Four Seasons restaurant in New York City had just been built in the late 50s by the beverage company Seagram and Sons. (I think of Seagrams now, I think of wine coolers. I don’t know that they’d be proud of that legacy; apparently they used to be the fanciest.) They commissioned Rothko to paint a mural for the restaurant for a lot of money. He worked on them for at least a year or two, then visited the restaurant and decided, for a reason that’s never been completely explained, his paintings couldn’t hang there. He called Seagram up, gave him what is thought to have been a monumental tongue-lashing (Rothko was a firebrand, you guys) and sent him back the money. In the play, which I assume was researched, the amount was $35,000. In the late 50s/early 60s. He RETURNED it. The paintings were done, but he didn’t want them hanging in that restaurant.
The play (which won a number of Tonys in 2010) is about the years he spent working on the mural. In order for him to have someone to talk to (because it would be extremely strange for him to talk to himself for 90 minutes) he hires a young artist as an assistant at the top of the show, and the two of them spar. It’s a complicated relationship; a little father/son, a little teacher/student, a little peer to peer, a little antagonistic.
Let’s get the little things out of the way first: the acting was stellar. The set design was amazing – it couldn’t have been more of an art studio without you actually being in an art studio. They painted on stage, with paint flying. The passion was so palpable. The direction was tight and crisp. I had nothing at all to complain about.
It was the writing, though. The writing. Oh, my. John Logan’s script – such a brilliant work of art in itself.
The play was about the relationship between the two men, but it was also about art. Art on a lot of levels. First, the relationship between the artist and his or her work, but also the relationship between the viewer and the art. How the viewer should come to the work; how the viewer should view the work. How the work should make the viewer feel. How much the artist should art-design the viewing process – the lighting, the venue.
Even closer to my heart, it was about the internal struggle. The quote at the top of the post is from the show; Rothko compared death to the black and life to the red. When the black came for him, life was over. Everything he did was to keep the black at bay. He talked about how artists have to kill their muses (his being the Cubists, killing them with Expressionism); but when the up-and-coming artists came along (Warhol, Lichtenstein) and began to “kill” their muses, (i.e. him) he was furious – at them, for daring to challenge him, at the audience, for what he considered the dumbing-down of art.
“‘Pretty.’ ‘Beautiful.’ ‘Nice.’ ‘Fine.’ That’s our life now! Everything’s ‘fine’. We put on the funny nose and glasses and slip on the banana peel and the TV makes everything happy and everyone’s laughing all the time, it’s all so goddamn funny, it’s our constitutional right to be amused all the time, isn’t it? We’re a smirking nation, living under the tyranny of ‘fine.’ How are you? Fine.. How was your day? Fine. How are you feeling? Fine. How did you like the painting? Fine. What some dinner? Fine… Well, let me tell you, everything is not fine!!
HOW ARE YOU?!… HOW WAS YOUR DAY?!… HOW ARE YOU FEELING? Conflicted. Nuanced. Troubled. Diseased. Doomed. I am not fine. We are not fine. We are anything but fine.”
The passion in this. The fight against anything middle-of-the-road. Always straining for whatever is ultimate. Keeping the black at bay. The overwhelming need to create something beautiful, something that will last. Yes. Yes, I found a lot to relate to in this play.
Rothko, ultimately, was not able to fight the black. In 1970, he was found dead, having not only slit his wrists, but having overdosed on pills as well. The black won. He ran out of red.
He made something lasting, though. 836 paintings. Can you even imagine a legacy like this?
I left the theater filled with so many emotions. Hope and loss and pride and a deep feeling of being understood, somehow, by someone I’d never known, by someone who’d died before I was even born, by someone tied to me by something as tangential as a shared love for the creation of beautiful things and a brain that runs at a different frequency than the people buzzing around us.
I had a good day. The red kept the black most definitely at bay.
This isn’t a REAL “adventures in Baltimore” post. It’s more of a continuation of yesterday’s post, which just got too crazy long. Plus I got really tired. I have to get normal amounts of sleep one of these days, yo. I’m in a weird walking-through-mud not-enough-sleep-space lately. That does not make for a cheery Amy.
OK! So if you’ll remember back to yesterday, we went to the zoo, then came home to see how A. did in his race. How did he do? JUST AS WELL AS HE WANTED TO, YAY! Also, he got a crazy sunburn. The best part of his sunburn was that he was wearing a biking outfit? They probably have a name, I don’t know what it is. You know, the spandex one-piece biking suit, like they wear in the Tour de France? And so where the suit was and his arms and legs came out was a VERY CRISP LINE where the sunburn started because those suits are tight. I fretted at him that he needed to wear sunscreen from now on. I think he ignored me. WEAR SUNSCREEN FROM NOW ON, A.!!! Look, I found this for you. It’s a spray, it dries DRY, not STICKY, so all the road-dirt will not get all over you, and please use it from now on because I like you very much and sunburns are scary.
So when we got home, A. was there, and A. was on Baby CeeVee duty for the evening, and R. and I got all ready for our NEXT adventure, which was…
DINNER AND A SHOW!
R.’s friend S. met us at the house for our adventure. I did not change my clothes. R. and S. looked ADORABLE so probably I should have but I didn’t bring anything stylish so I told them I could be their country cousin who’d never been to the big city before. Also, S. had the cat-eye glasses that I covet, and also the most adorable stylish shoes and tights. I was kind of impressed with S.’s sense of style, yo. Want to know the secret of my sense of style? It is A., what is clean? and B., will these shoes be comfortable if I’m walking long distances? That’s it. That’s the entirety of it. Oh, also I like necklaces. That’s all. Fin.
So first, we went to a teeny-tiny tavern for dinner. What was it called? Well, it was Baltimore…and who do they love in Baltimore? Edgar Allen Poe…and so it was called…
The Annabel Lee Tavern!
I didn’t take photos at ALL that night. I’m totally ganking all of these from the internet. Sorry, world.
It was so perfect, this place. I was crazy in love.
Look how pretty! The walls were all this mauvey color, and it was all mismatched furniture and Poe quotes and candles and Poe-paintings and it was totally moody and amazing. Seriously, THIS is how you do a themed restaurant. I hope it makes all the money and stays open for years to come.
R. knew I am attempting to have The Year of Trying New Foods so with that in mind, we decided to have three appetizers and share them, rather than three meals, so we had:
- Baked Brie en Cruet! This was brie in pastry with what seemed to be jam on it but the menu says it’s brown sugar and pecans. This was ok, but you’d think with all of these things, it would be AMAZING, right? I wasn’t sold on this. But I’m not a huge Brie fan (is Brie a capitalized thing? It looks weird if I don’t capitalize it) so that might be why I didn’t love it. It wasn’t BAD, it just wasn’t AMAZING.
- Crab Dip Flatbread Pizza! R. said I couldn’t leave Baltimore without having SOMETHING with crab it in. This was good, but again, not amazing. I think it needed more crab. I’m very crab-oriented. I could eat crab, with crab topping, on a bed of crab, garnished with a little crab, and be happy, you see. But, again, I liked it.
- Duck Fat Fries with Herbs de Provence! O.M.G., you guys. OH. EMM. GEE. WHY DIDN’T YOU PEOPLE TELL ME ABOUT SUCH A THING BEFORE NOW? OK, here’s the thing. I don’t like fries much. I could live the rest of my life without eating fries again and I wouldn’t miss them much. I know, a lot of you are gasping right now; fries are a thing that some people crave. Like pasta. I could live forever without pasta and would be a little sad, but ok. (Now, take away chocolate, or bread, and we’d have a fight, yo.) But THESE fries? They were perfectly crispy. The seasoning was salty and herby and just right. And I don’t know if the magic was in the duck fat, or what was going on there, but seriously, I wanted to put my face in the dish and just start chomping. I don’t know that I’ve had an appetizer EVER that has been this good. So, yes. Instead of crab, the thing I discovered that I am in love with while in Baltimore (other than, well, Baltimore, and Baby CeeVee) is DUCK FAT FRIES WITH HERBS DE PROVENCE FROM THE ANNABEL LEE TAVERN.
Next, it was off to the theater!
The theater area was GORGEOUS. It was totally a mini-Broadway. I was muy impressed. Our theater was called The Hippodrome.
It’s an old-timey theater. It looks a little like our Proctors here, maybe a little smaller. I am a sucker for a pretty theater.
Now, what do you think we saw at this theater? (Mom? Dad? If you are reading this, because I know you’ve been following adventures in Baltimore, you should stop now. Well, Dad, you can stay. Mom, please read something else. Maybe a nice book about kittens. Or the Bible. Dad, you know I’m vulgar. And it alternately makes you laugh and/or shake your head. So you can stick around, I suppose.)
Well, I don’t know if you remember, but last year around this time, I posted a review of what is possibly one of the worst books I’ve ever read. It remains one of my most-read posts. People apparently love reading about terrible books and me ripping them to pieces in a snarky way. Also, do you know what else people love? Bad porn.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen; we went to see…
YES WE DID!
Listen, this was a big theater. I should have been more worried when I realized it was completely full. Mostly of giggling women. Wearing inappropriate clothing like hooker-shoes and very low-cut tops. Here or there was a man, but the men did NOT look excited to be there. No they did not.
So we got to our seats, but not without trials and tribulations. Apparently the ushers were not sure where the seats were. Even when we showed them our tickets. (Well, I should say “ticket”. Or even “piece of paper,” because when R. went to the will-call window, apparently they were out of tickets so they gave her a piece of paper with our seats written on it.) One man told us to go to one door and another man sent us further on and a woman told us we were in the wrong place and SIGHINGLY led us over to OTHER seats. Sorry we’re bothering you, ushers! Whose job is to ush!
So. The show.
Well, in good news, it was a parody, which I didn’t know going into it. I was picturing that it was going to be actually a serious theatrical version of the worst book EVERRRR.
Here’s the plot in a nutshell: three book-club ladies, two married, one sad-sack whose husband just left her (everyone keeps saying “Oh, CAROL”) read 50 Shades of Grey as their monthly pick. They then daydream about certain scenes, and actors playing the characters come out. Oh, also they talk about sex and masturbation a lot. And fisting. There’s a lot of talk of fisting.
The actor playing Christian Grey was a short, overweight Asian man, which was supposed to be super-funny, especially when he came out and the actress playing Ana was all “HE WAS SO TALL AND HOT AND DREAMY!” There were songs like “I Don’t Make Love” (with lines like, “I don’t make love, I fuck”) and “There’s a Hole Inside of Me” (this song was FILLED with euphemism) and “Red Room of Pain” (this one had lots of props, like whips and dildos.)
The audience LOVED this show. I don’t know that I’ve heard laughter like that in ever. There was one guy who may or may not have been drunk who was loudly heckling. The actors had nice voices. And they were acting, and not badly. There were some dancers. Who danced well. No one got naked, and the dreaded tampon scene wasn’t represented (whoo) but there was some down-center doggy-style action, and some disturbingly animalistic cunnilingus which made me feel terrible for both of the actors involved.
I’m a terrible theater snob, you guys. I think it’s gotten to the point I can’t enjoy something like this. I know. I KNOW. I’m one of those snooty assholes who says things like “stage picture” and “believability of character” and such. I don’t know if it’s the show, or if it’s the book the show’s based on and my hatred of it, or the fact that the theater was FULL, and would the theater have been full for something like A Streetcar Named Desire or Fat Pig or A Midsummer Night’s Dream? My guess is no. No, it would not be. And should I just be glad that people are SEEING theater, or should I be upset that this is all the theater some people see? And should I be upset that this kind of thing tours, but good shows close all the time because they don’t have audiences?
And this is what I thought about for an hour and a half, while the actors mimed oral sex and put dog-collars on each other and talked about giving up all of your personal freedom to someone just for some really rough sex.
Is it a good or a bad thing that being a theater snob seems to have taken away my ability to enjoy something stupid for a couple of hours? Or HAS it taken that away? Was it just that I hated the book so I couldn’t force my brain to like the show? The whole audience was really digging it, yo. I was the only sourpuss.
R. and S. enjoyed it, though. And the theater was REALLY pretty. Also there was popcorn for sale, so I totally bought some and ate it while I was watching the show. You could also buy alcohol. I think they wanted you to be drunk to watch it. Although R. said the wine was terrible, and also it was like $9 for about 4 ounces. Not a good deal at all.
Here, I found you this so you don’t think I’m making this all up.
Then we went home and played CSI. Why was the dining room chair in the computer area? Why were there two water bottles on the stove? Why was there a half-eaten piece of pizza on the counter? We thought maybe A. and Baby CeeVee had been kidnapped by ne’er-do-wells, but no. They were asleep. It was just a very long night and A. got tired because he’d been racing in the sun all day long.
OH, also, I totally ALSO got a sunburn, even though I put on all the sunscreen. Guess where? The stupidest place ever. THE PART IN MY HAIR. Who would think to put sunscreen in their HAIR? Not me! And now my head hurts there. Nice. I’m going to be the first person to die from skin cancer of the scalp.
Off to bed, chicks and chicklettes. One more of these, but you might not get it until…um…Sunday? Monday? Big week coming up. Three plays to see! Dinner with friend N.! Work all day tomorrow and Saturday! A review to write! Hanging with The Nephew! Auditions for the next show at my theater! SO SO BUSY!!!
Until then, remember: duck fat fries, good. Anything 50 Shades of Grey related: no. Not good. Not at all.
I don’t remember the first play I watched. I know it was either Antigone or The Glass Menagerie; both plays came to my junior high via a local company that took shows on tour to the area schools. I remember watching both transfixed; I remember skipping classes to watch a second performance the following day of The Glass Menagerie because I wanted that magic again and didn’t know when I’d next have the chance. I remember thinking – no, knowing – that I wanted to be a part of that. That I wanted to be on that stage. That I wanted to be the one telling those stories to the people sitting hushed and transfixed in their velvety folding chairs. I auditioned for my first show not long after that.
I don’t remember the first musical I watched, either. I know the first one I watched on a television screen was Grease, and my mother thought it was too risqué for me (I think I was probably 9 or 10 at the time.) As for onstage, I think it was Bye Bye Birdie, a high school production when I was a freshman or a sophomore. I can’t sing a note and me dancing looks a lot like someone being electrocuted, but oh, do I like to watch others doing those things, and doing them well.
I don’t even remember my first Sondheim show. I want to say it was A Little Night Music, which I know I saw early on as a college student, but when you see as many shows as I have over the years, things start to get fuzzy around the edges. I do know there’s no way, seeing it as a college student, I would have understood it all. There’s no way I would have understood that when Petra sings “Every day a little death” in “The Miller’s Son” that “a little death” was an old-fashioned euphemism for an orgasm. Mostly because I’m pretty sure at that stage in my life I barely knew what one was. (Yes, that is totally an indictment of the men I’d dated up until that point.) And I am absolutely sure I didn’t get the utter sadness and longing and bitter sweetness of “Send in the Clowns” at my ripe old age of 18 or 19 or however old I was when I watched the show. When you’re that age, you can’t understand, not really understand, the meaning behind “Just when I’d stopped opening doors/Finally knowing the one that I wanted was yours/Making my entrance again with my usual flair/Sure of my lines/No one is there. ” You have to have lived a little life to understand that. I’ve lived a little life. I get that now.
Since then, I’ve seen West Side Story with its doomed lovers and joyous “America” (in a strangely compelling high school production); Company a number of times with its utterly rapid-fire perfect “Not Getting Married Today” and triumphant “Being Alive” and wistful “Barcelona,” Sweeney Todd, again a number of times, once even with my mother, and she still sometimes sings “There’s a hole in the world like a great black pit! And it’s filled with people who are filled with…” and then she looks around to make sure no one’s listening and she whispers “shit” and giggles; Into the Woods, which I can’t even choose a favorite song from, I love so many of them (but sometimes I’ll find myself singing “I wish, more than life, more than anything, more than the moon” around the house when I’m in a particular mood); and of course, my most beloved Assassins, which I see any time I can, no matter who’s putting on the production (I’d probably see a kindergarten production of the damn thing, I love it so), which I actually got to work on last year.
I know I’m missing a lot in Sondheim’s body of work. I’m seeing Sunday in the Park with George for the first time this week, which is a huge thing for me. And I know I could watch some of these things on DVD, like Gypsy, but I really want to see them onstage first. I’m biased. I like the actors in front of me singing and acting. I feel it’s the way it was intended. At least the first time I see it. Once I’ve seen the stage show, I’ll watch the movie version. That’s the reason I haven’t watched a lot of movie musicals, actually.
I grew up in a very small town, and there weren’t many opportunities to see or do artsy things there. You had to drive half an hour to get to a very broken-down movie theater that played the same movie once a day for a month. You had to drive an hour and a half to get to a live theater, which didn’t open until I was in junior high. I wanted more, and I wanted a lot of it, but never really thought I’d get it. I didn’t dream huge. I thought maybe people only saw one play a year, maybe. I thought that’s how life was.
I am one of the very lucky people who had a dream and has been able to continue that dream in her life. I see a hell of a lot more than a play a year. In an average month, I see probably 4 or 5. I’ve gotten to work on more plays than I can count in my life. I’ve met some amazing people. I live in an area I love so much that sometimes I wake up and can’t actually believe I’m lucky enough to be living here. I’ve had such huge experiences that if I’d thought of them when I was a little kid sitting in awe in a darkened auditorium in junior high, I’d have laughed at my own folly.
And tonight, I got to sit about six feet from Stephen Sondheim and listen to him talk about sixty years of working in musical theater. I was close enough to see him tear up, talking about how important art is to our lives. “Art is a form of teaching,” he said. “It teaches us how to see the world.” (I hope I got that right; I’ll admit I was a bit choked up when he said it.)
He talked about seeing the original version of A Streetcar Named Desire when he was young, and getting a thrill that he was part of the theater world, that he was lucky enough to work in this art form. And then he said he saw another show in London recently that made him think the same exact thing. He’s 83 years old and he still gets that thrill, realizing how lucky he is to be a part of this.
The small-town girl who thought she’d get to see one play a year, maybe, if she was lucky, got to see one of her idols tonight. I’m not that small-town girl anymore. I’m all grown up, and I left the small town behind over half a lifetime ago. But that girl comes with me, you see. She comes with me wherever I go. And she is amazed at the opportunites that I have. She is so damned proud of this life I’ve made. And tonight, the two of us sat in our velvety theater seat, hushed and transfixed as if we were thirteen again, watching one of the great icons of musical theater talk about how lucky he feels, to be a part of this life as well.
Sometimes this is really just a beautiful life, you know? Just so beautiful, it hurts to even look at it head-on.
(I didn’t take photos as we were told not to and I didn’t want to be ejected from one of the best memories of my life. This person works for one of the local papers and did. I was closer than this, but here’s a shot from tonight.)
— Danielle Sanzone (@DanielleSanzone) May 7, 2013