Theatre Series: Experience

There are many varied aspects in the theatrical realm, but every single one of them point toward the same, singular goal: to put on a good show. In all honesty, can you really have a show without an audience? Hint: the answer is no.

I have had the privilege of being involved in almost every area of the theatre, but I must say that it is wonderful to be able to go out and view the work of other casts and crews. This is exactly what I did on Saturday night. My sister and I went to a musical in St. Joseph, Missouri titled The Drowsy Chaperone. It was an absolutely stunning production.

The show begins in the dark, and our guide “Man in Chair” is speaking to us. About theatre. One could call this “meta-theatre” I suppose. In any case, he is a riveting individual, and when the lights come up we are in his home. He invites us to listen to his record of The Drowsy Chaperone, and when he plays it the curtain flies up and the show begins. Throughout the musical, Man in Chair adds his commentary, and we come to love him in the process.

Sitting in the audience in that theatre, watching him talk to us about his love for theatre, I laughed and cried. I soared at every high point, and felt the gut wrenching emotions I was supposed to at the low points. Everyone did. There is a sort of strange, communal experience which every audience member shares. It is intriguing because no show is ever exactly the same, and no audience is ever exactly the same. When I am watching a show I am part of something wholly and completely unique; utterly unable to be reproduced. Walking out of the show that night, I felt that those who had been complete strangers before the show were suddenly fast friends of mine. We had all been through something together that would never happen again.

Everyone should watch theatre. Why? Because it is an experience that you cannot have in any other place. Theatre is catharsis. It is a living, breathing art with nothing but an imagined fourth wall between yourself and the world being created on the stage. Watching a show is very much like being transported to another world through the pages of a book, except that these stories do what every child dreams of—they come alive.

These living stories are sometimes happy, occasionally humorous, mildly dramatic but almost always full of relevant truths that the audience can carry out the lobby doors with them.

Let’s go back to The Drowsy Chaperone. There are moments in which I began to understand parts about Man in Chair’s life outside of these few hours he was spending with us. He had been in love, and he had lost that love through divorce. He was a tortured individual. These records of musicals were his only escape from the reality which he had to live through every single day.

Isn’t that the way theatre works, though? We all claw our way through this mad thing they call life. Sometimes, even if it’s just for a few hours while sitting in chair 14, row D, we’d like to escape and watch someone else’s world for awhile.