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The Power of Theatre…It Never Ceases to Amaze

December 28, 2012

Over the past few months I have been off the stage and settled into the role of audience member. Now, normally that would frustrate me, but it is actually exactly what I needed. After 5 years of seeing theatre through a critical, analytic, student point-of-view, it’s nice to just enjoy theatre for myself for once. I spent my Christmas Eve Eve in Manhattan where I got to experience an astounding volume of people starting first thing in the morning on the New Haven Line. It was busy, cold, and transit was not having its best day, but I had a great day of theatre ahead. And it was more than great. I not only had the pleasure of seeing a few good friends, but I experienced two extremes in theatre: simple, adorable, and wholesome to spectacular, ridiculous, and offensive (in the best way).

I should explain.

A former cast mate and now dear friend of mine is currently performing in the Off-Broadway production of the Berenstein Bears LIVE up at the Manhattan Movement and Arts Center, which I finally got a chance to see. It is an adorable child-oriented show that bring the bears from the story books I grew up with to life. It is probably the most wholesome piece of theatre I have ever seen and it was just great, especially since I got to see a friend performing. What I loved about it was the simplicity of the set as well. Design-wise, it looks like three-dimensional versions of the picture books on the stage. The actors do all the set changes and it is all choreographed so the show runs like a well-oiled machine to cater to the brief attention spans of small children. Simple, adorable, and wholesome.

Meanwhile, over on 49th, another friend of mine was waiting in line for standing room only tickets to The Book of Mormon which I have been wanting to see FOREVER! Without spoiling any plots or story lines since it is such hard show to get tickets for, let me just reiterate the three words from earlier. Spectacular: some of the most amazing scenic and technical elements I have seen on a Broadway stage – The closing number of Act 1 in particular had some moving lights that were just dazzling. Ridiculous & Offensive (in the best way): If you have seen the show or heard the music, you understand where I am going with this – The book and lyrics are just brilliant in the way they use comedy to shine a spotlight on pertinent issues.

I may or may not be making a clear point, and if you are still with me, that means maybe you are as confused as I was on the train home tonight. Through theatre, we as artists have this amazing power through the material we are given and connection we are then allowed to form with the audience. Theatre is this amazing tool that can use dancing bears to teach values to little kids, maybe using tap-dancing Mormons to spark up some conversation about suppressing thoughts and feelings about faith, sexuality, or the state of the poorest parts of the world. Anyway, I was standing in the back of the orchestra watching the curtain call with all its flashing lights and laughter and just thought about all the messages that had been suggested to me through theatre throughout the day, and felt blessed to be in on the secret.

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