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Anonymous Showbiz Confessions Post #2

November 20, 2012

All of this week’s posts are written by my fellow Green Room Bloggers (not myself…or are they?), but I have published them all under my username to protect their identities. Hope you enjoy their confessions!

Sometimes I think theatre is pointless. What good are we really doing? This hit me with an extra potent force when I saw my mom in the ICU this September after having major surgery that removed cancer in her lungs. It was caught early and all is well, so there’s nothing to worry about. But the point is, all those doctors and nurses were so much more valuable to society than I felt I ever would be as a theatre artist.

Plays seem so earth shattering to us but is that only because we’ve analyzed them to pieces? We’ve looked into them more deeply than any regular theatre patron ever would. Think about the plays that mean the most to you. Aren’t they the ones you’ve spent the most time in? The ones you’ve broken down in your three ring binders, highlighting social, political, philosophical, relgious, lines etc etc. You’ve identified beats, you’ve paid close attention to word choice. You’ve read the play ten times. You’ve caught on and can now appreciate the playwright’s careful attention and brilliance. You’ve realized the meaning. You’re left with its tone, its mood, the feeling of its theme and you can even bottle it up in one succinct meaningful phrase. You’ve done this because maybe you’re acting in it, maybe you’re directing it, maybe it’s an assignment for your modern drama class. Or script analysis. You weren’t a big fan of the play at first, but now it speaks to you. After all this research, you love it. You understand it. You get it. It’s done it’s job on you.

But when you see a show … isn’t it much more vague? You may feel moved at some point. It may spark a coversation. But how long does that impact last? How much of what you saw do you remember two days later? If you see it again, you’re amazed by all the little parts it seems you have missed. If you missed something, surely everyone else did too. If this play is apparently so life-shattering, we shoudn’t be missing anything, should we?

Don’t plays impact us the most when we’re on the inside? Aren’t the people who get the most out of a production the ones involved in it? The ones who have spent days and days in the world of the play, who have had time, notebooks, and links online to research and absorb it all.

Think of the theatre that’s touched you the most. I bet you either read the script a thousand times or you were involved in the production.

Are we selfish with our craft?

Do we only like to think that theatre serves our audience in a way that is more than just escapism?

I guess my big question is:
Does theatre really reach out past the edge of the stage (or the page) or are we just feeding ourselves and pretending we’re doing something great?

I can write a play for my mom, but I could never have told her she had cancer. And then once I found out, I could produce that play about her, but I never could have gotten the cancer out. And by the time it grew, I could have brought her to a production of this play, but I never could have saved her life.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 20, 2012 10:37 am

    I’ve got to say something in response to this, because it’s too dangerous to let it just lie there. Theatre is art. Art is essential. Doctors and nurses may save our lives, but Art reminds us that our lives are worth living.

    True, it’s easy to produce work that is merely escapist and doesn’t contain any higher meaning or truth in it. But sometimes a silly escapist fantasy is just what someone needs when life gets to be too much, and providing that to people is just as valuable as serving up something more high-minded.

    And true, it’s very rare that the stuff that is actually meant to touch people — or to perhaps change their hearts and minds a little — ever succeeds in doing so. That’s because it’s *hard* to do that kind of thing right. But it can be done; the Broadway production of John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt” from a few years back comes to mind. But just because a thing is hard and people rarely succeed at it, it doesn’t mean that thing is not worth doing and should not be attempted, again and again.

    That’s pretty much the story of Theatre, the story of Art, and the story of human Life — it’s difficult sometimes, but you keep at it, because every once in a while, there is a brief glimpse of the eternal, the universal. It may only last for a second, it may not be shared by everyone in the room, and it may happen when you least expect it — but it happens, and it reminds us that we’re human, that we exist, and that this existence is beautiful. It makes all of our other struggles and suffering somehow seem worth it. To give up on Art is to give up on ourselves.

    • November 20, 2012 12:18 pm

      I love your comment on our blogger’s post. I love that you can feel the passion oozing out of it, I love that you articulate just what makes Art so vital for you.

      I think if you keep in mind where this blogger is coming from (his/her mother facing a serious, life-threatening illness), it is much more understandable that he/she is questioning everything he/she has believed in to this point. I hope this blogger reads your comment and is re-inspired. And I hope you understand why he/she felt this way.

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