Golly gee, I miss theater

I went to see a friend’s one-man show at the SF Fringe last week, and it was so lovely. All of it. The play, the performance, the music, the audience, the lighting problems, the crappy neighborhood, 99-seat black box, the dingy old seats, the props, the compromises, the costumes, the sweat, the tears, the waiting, the request for donations.

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Every minute of it.

Because theater is so much of who I used to be, because I’ve loved this particular show since it was an idea five years ago (then as a rough-draft, then at a reading, then at a staged reading, and now as a fully produced show). Well acted, well directed, well attended. The place was sold out for every show, he was named Best of Fringe, and the audiences and critics loved my darling friend, his writing, his acting.

The evening was lovely because it belonged to my Michael. Wholly.

But also because I fucking love theaters.

The thrill I get when walking into a black box theater exceeds my excitement at walking outside on a gorgeous Saturday morning, headed with my boys to the local bakery. It’s true. Tell their therapists, I don’t care. I love dingy, dusty, moth-eaten theaters. And opulent, gilded, soaring-ceilinged theaters.

Every theater has something thrilling, weird, something gross, something secret, something special that makes it different than all the other theaters you’ve been to. It’s true of tiny basement spaces and huge, professional opera houses. Backstage feels like a pact. Front of house feels like a privilege. Onstage feels like magic.

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Every space in which I haven’t yet performed is a thrilling portend of the moment the lights will come up and audiences will collectively gasp; and every stage on which I have is mine, mine, mine, mine, mine. I remember every laugh, every awkward pause, every piece of dust floating in the footlights.

I can count on one hand the number of theaters I’ve been in since Peanut was born. And in all of those theaters I was there to watch, not to perform.

I haven’t auditioned in over 15 years. My headshot is shockingly young.

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I haven’t performed in 2 years, and that’s only if I’m counting conferences at which I presented. I should count karaoke, too, but I don’t. Because I do actually know the difference. The last time I was in costume and makeup cleaving to a script was in 2000.

That hurts to write. I looked for the old review, and it’s in a paper that features an article on Napster. Yes, really.

The last time I did stand-up was 1997. Twenty years ago. Open mic at BlogHer’s Listen to Your Mother session doesn’t count. I did make a couple of people cry, though, so that was worth the mic time.

I could excuse this gap in my theatrical life by explaining that theater is for night owls, and I’ve had to be up early since I had kids. But that’s 11 years. What happened to the other 6? I could blame it on work. Or grad school. Or being a grownup trying to make a living.

But none of that is true. I always meant to go back. When I was moving toward things, it made sense to prioritize successes in different arenas. Now that I’m restless and floundering, auditioning takes way more courage than I have.

I miss the theater. I can’t audition right now, because I can’t accept any role I’m given, unless we rehearse only every other Sunday. And perform every other Sunday. Not likely, unless the show I’m doing is liturgical. [Don’t think I haven’t considered that. Maybe a little choir to get back into performing. A little open mic. A little…]

Actually, there are possibilities. There are several. I think it’s time to look into the local open mic scene and The Moth schedule.

I’ll let you know.

More important: congratulations, my dear friend Gaff. What a lovely show you wrote and what a stunning performance you gave!

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least favorite “best” plays and better alternatives

We just did a bang up job on narrowing the Western canon to 20 or so books. Let’s please winnow the stage’s best known plays to those that are actually worth producing and watching…

Five plays others love that I can’t stand:
“A Streetcar Named Desire”
“The Death of a Salesman”
“Waiting for Godot” (Good lord, wait for Lefty instead.)
“Three Sisters” (Russians don’t have the depression market cornered. Oh, wait, yes they do. Try “The Cherry Orchard,” instead.)
“Hamlet” That’s right. I said it. Can’t stand Hamlet. Like most of Shakes, except the histories, but can’t be bothered by Hamlet.

Nine much, much better “best”s:
“Raisin in the Sun”
“Of Mice and Men”
“And Baby Makes Seven” (some prefer “Baltimore Waltz” or “How I Learned to Drive”, and I honor those preferences, but I’m a fan of Vogel’s moms in Seven)
“The Glass Menagerie” (made even more delightful if played as a double header with Chris Durang’s “For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls”)
“The Iceman Cometh”
“Macbeth”
“Awake and Sing!” (Odets, why have we forsaken thee?)
“The Crucible”
“The Importance of Being Earnest”

I’m open to musicals but not “West Side Story.” (Also, not a fan of adaptations though you can beg to differ…put Diary of Anne Frank and To Kill a Mockingbird over in my best and worst books posts) (and here and here). Bring your best and worst to the comments…