7 Things: Random Travel Posts #4 – Theater

For me, few things come close to watching someone I admire perform on stage. As the only net-free medium, live performance is the truest test of a person’s talent.

In music, there is over-producing and auto-tune and patchwork pieces pulled together from a dozen different recordings. In acting, there are on-set acting coaches and edits and as many takes as you need to hit the emotion the director wants. I’m not discounting the great work that some actors pull off in the studio, but, when it comes down to it, film and TV make you believe that someone can act.

Theater proves the person can.

The most gripping thing about theater for me is the extreme vulnerability of those on the stage. In the theater, there are so many factors at play. Anything and anyone can interfere. Sets and props can go awry. The audience can interrupt with cell phones, crinkling food wrappers, sneezes, and, occasionally, heavy breathing. Your costars can forget their lines. You can forget yours.

And yet, the show must go on.

I have witnessed forgotten lines, accidental falls, and long pauses where an audience member makes so much noise that the actor holds the next line so the rest of the audience won’t miss it. I have seen people naked – both emotionally and physically – from three-feet away. I have seen them cry tears so real that they can only be real. I have seen people hurt, truly hurt, for the sole purpose of portraying another person’s pain.

Consider for a moment how many people you let see you cry, how many you let see you naked, how many know when you are truly hurting. Being seen in any of these situations is such a vulnerable position to be in. Especially when the people have come to look right at you, so you don’t even have the luxury of averted gazes.

That’s what makes theater a raw, visceral, intimate experience unlike anything else on earth.

This trip’s theater experience was of particular importance to me. I was going to see one of the members of my acting trinity – Leslie Bibb – in her first theater performance ever. She was nervous – she openly expressed it several times on Twitter – which, honestly, made me a little nervous for her. Because the theater has no safety net, and even when you are pretty damn sure that a person can walk that tightrope with aplomb, it doesn’t mean that your heart doesn’t beat a little faster as you watch her take that first step out onto it. You know that she’ll succeed, and, yet, you also know that you don’t want to see her fall.

Leslie didn’t fall. In fact, she danced across that rope as if she had done it a million times before. She got all the right laughs and all the right pauses for contemplation.

She was perfect.

But she didn’t have to be.

And I’m not sure I would have noticed if she wasn’t.

Because for thirty minutes a crazy actress named Bobbi Michele inhabited Leslie’s body, and I got to watch Bobbi Michele do crazy vocal exercises and sing and spritz her nethers and genuinely laugh. Yet somehow, at the same time, I got to watch Leslie do all of those things too.

That’s theater.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.