Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Color Purple on Broadway

Hi all!

I know, it’s been awhile.  A long while.  I was away.  But I’m back!  Call it a New Year’s Resolution!  (Or not.  NYR’s only survive 20% of the time, so maybe don’t call it that.)

A couple of things, there is a format change coming.  A move away from just seeing plays into more of the work I have done, want to do, and the work of my friends.  There will also probably be political posts.

And, hopefully, posts about my new podcast!  (Debuting in late Feb! More details soon!)

But, having said all that, this post is still show related. 

Last night, I finally saw The Color Purple.  Ya’ll, it was so good. 

José Quintero was once asked (while in a theatre) why he didn’t attend church.  His response was to gesture around the space he sat and say “oh but I do, because here is my church”.  The Color Purple reminded me of that.  In fact, my direct quote (via text to an out of town friend who is still mad at me for getting to see it) was: This show reminded me of the majesty and the power of theatre.

First, it lived inside its own theatrical reality: one in which a plain white sheet was a pregnancy belly, and a baby, and a picnic blanket (if you wanted to track a sheet’s journey through the play).  There are plenty of other moments of theatrical reality, but I’ve spoken about it before in other shows (like here, here, and here and especially here ) so I’ll lay off it here.

I also loved the amount of team work and safety that the cast showed towards each other.  In small things, all the time.  The clearest one is that every time someone stood on a chair, someone else was behind the chair making sure it didn’t tump over.  And, it was part of the choreography, so it just looked natural.  It wasn’t until the third or fourth time it happened that I was like – wait, is this happening?  And then began to look for it.  (Spoiler alert, it was happening).  Whether it was the choreographer, director, cast or some combination I can’t tell you. I can tell you that, as a safety conscience director, it was nice to see.

But all of that is aside from what I really want to talk about.  And that is:

Why art?  Or more, why live art?

This show reminded me of one of the many reasons I love theatre.  Because theatre (and, arguably, most live art performances)  builds community.   The community maybe temporary, but it is tangible.    
It starts with the excitement of all being gathered together for the same reason – to see a story.  We’ve all decided that, of all the things we could be doing, this is the thing I want to be doing right now.  And we all have our various reasons for being there, but make no mistake, we have all decided that it is a worthwhile way to spend a Tuesday evening.

(Side note – I love going to the theatre by myself.  I love it because I get to have the experience and take my own journey in whatever way I want to.  And, because of the sense of community that builds within the space of the theatre, people will talk to you, strangers will talk to you, if that’s what you want.  And if it’s not, then you are not forced to talk while you process through whatever emotional journey you’re on. )

Here’s why that side note is so awkwardly placed, because I have a million stories of the friends I’m made in the liminal communities of theatre, but today, I want to talk about the ones I made last night. No, I never know their names (ok, rarely, I have made some actual friends out of theatre before).  But what we do have is a shared lived experience.

And in that shared lived experience there are moments of connection: the woman crying next to me, while I cried – both of us trying, and failing, to be quiet crying.  The couple who sat in front of me, from New Jersey, so excited to have driven in to see that show, so desperate for connection and to talk about what they had just witnessed that the reached out with a smile and a need to everyone who made eye contact with them – resulting in a 10 minute conversation about the show in the aisle after with 7 or so people – my part ending with 6 people wishing me luck in unison as I braved the crowd to get to the bathroom.  The spontaneous applause from all of us when one of the leads stopped singing to tell the man in the second row to put his cell phone up.  The man from Manchester England, on holiday for his big 4-0 birthday, telling me the story of his blokes getting him a single ticket to the show because of how much he wanted to see it.  He was so excited to be in NYC, so excited to see the show (he loved the movie and the book!), he was even so excited that his friends hadn’t come because “they wouldn’t have liked it anyway, they don’t like musicals.  Now I get to have dinner with them and tell them what they missed.  They’ll like it better this way!” His enthusiasm for the show, for NYC, for life contagious, easily sharing his smile and laugh. (If you, Manchester Man,  ever read this, HAPPY BIRTHDAY by the way!)

These moments, and all the others I don’t have time or space to write out, these moments are some of the many reasons I love theatre.  Because it bonds us.  Because in this space, we are one community.  And it doesn’t matter if I don’t know you, or will never see you again, because in this space, we are the same, and we are community.  We rise and fall as a group, sharing experiences and laughs and tears and thoughts and journeys and wants and needs and…

And right now, with everything that is happening in the world, maybe we need a little more community.  A few more reminders of the good that humanity can and does do, how fast people can become community.  Because maybe that’s what we need.  More listening, more understanding, more watching another’s journey.  And definitely we need more community.

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