When you attend a live play, you see the actors sweat, spit, quiver, and cry. You hear the joy in their voice, and the pain in their screams. It’s electric in a way that film rarely is. When you have season tickets, you get to see the same actors as different characters, and you feel like you’re getting to know them. The tall, dark, man, the petite ingenue, the bawdy woman, and the balding father figure.
I was a singing secretary in my high school production of How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Costumes! Pancake make-up! Long rehearsals with my friends! After 3 performances, the cast was so pumped that we were sure we could take our show on the road. Instead, we returned to our neglected schoolwork, essay deadlines mercifully pushed back by understanding teachers. I never took a role on stage again, but I was an usher at Actors Theatre of Louisville and grew to love what the professionals could do. I saw so many nights of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest that I never bothered to see the movie. I couldn’t imagine that it was better than what I saw live. I probably wasn’t aware of it at the time, but ATL was an important regional theatre. Hosting a festival of new plays, some of the works that premiered there were award-winning, and some went on to Broadway. My husband and I had our first date there – it was an edgy new play – thus establishing a life-long attachment to the theatre wherever we’ve lived.
For the last few years we’ve sampled lots of different theatre around Chicago. The large and diverse theatre scene ranges from improv, original works, classics, musicals, or just Shakespeare. Some venues are enormous, and others hold an audience of 40. Even a classic like A Christmas Carol, emerges in great variety: Klingon, rap musical, beat poet, Second City send-up, and an amazing minimalist version with just 3 actors.
We went to a neighborhood theatre yesterday for the first time. Small venue, original work, 2 twenty-something actors and a 6-person Greek chorus of high school kids in masks. An edgy new play that raised more questions than answers. I look forward to getting to know the actors in this company.