Last fall, I saw three plays over the course of three days. Two were full-on theatrical productions, and one was a reading. They all involved people I know, and since I strive to be diplomatic, I won’t name names.
The first play I saw was a good. Oh hell, it was great. It was one of those plays where you sit there watching it and thinking, yes, yes, yes, yes, oh whoah, oh, oh, oh, there!, yes! ahhhhh. It made me play drunk. When it was over, I wanted the actors to do it all over again, but they had to go home.
Then. . .the morning after. . .hangover.
First, I went to a reading which left me curling under my seat in a fetal position while holding my hands up to my ears. Oh make it stop! Make it stop!
There was no character, no dialogue, no play. The reading was just people reading words.
As I tried to block out the noise, I noticed my two friends next to me. One had his hand over his eyes as if he had a terrible headache. The other friend had her hand over her mouth as if she was about to vomit.
At least I did not suffer alone.
The second bad play was a full production that was all over the stage in its bad bad baddyness. I ran from the theatre.
Now you might be thinking, now Jen, surely there was something salvageable or redeemable in the bad plays. Surely, you could learn something about your own writing from the mistakes of others. Surely, you could be nice because art is hard (sooo hard). Surely you could be supportive of your fellow writers putting themselves out there.
Surely, no. There was nothing salvageable or redeemable. There was nothing learnable.
Why do bad plays annoy me more than bad movies or bad television? Is it because the actors are right there on the stage, and they could stop that awfulness if they were asked to politely? Is it because plays are a dying form, and the bad ones make one wish the form would die faster? Is it because my time and gas (which is expensive) are being wasted?
Maybe I shouldn’t be so negative.
Maybe I should just focus on the good. Be positive. Okay. Okay. Positive. Yes.
What made the good play good?
It had simplicity. It didn’t need a lot. The characters were there without a lot of explanation or fuss as if the writer knew that the audience didn’t need all the junk that writers get told the audience needs. Maybe it’s just a matter of cleaning out the theatrical clutter.
And there was something else to it. Something in the stuff not shown. I’m not talking about illusions. I’m talking about the world beyond what one sees, that powerful other place in a stage play. It might be offstage or just beyond the spotlight. It might be moving between the characters. It’s the stuff of angels. Be kind to them or they will disappear.
And on that metaphysical note, I’m heading to the movies.
See you next time,