Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Ephemeral Nature of Theater

Carrie the Musical closed over a week ago. I'm still sad.

I wrote this as a Facebook status after Chicken Heart closed in July. When Carrie closed, I thought about it again. I had intended, before re-posting it here, to embellish it a little to include the tender feelings I have towards this most recent theater experience, but I don't know what I should add or change. The feelings of writing/directing/producing a show and acting in one are very different, but both are deeply personal and extremely delicate.

Oh, I should say that I stole the title from a comment made by Robert Trussell when I originally posted it: "This is the best essay I've ever read on the ephemeral nature of theater." Thanks, Bob.
Theater is a funny art form. We work for weeks, months, even years toward the singular goal of putting up the best production we can. We must put so many everyday-life elements on hold during that time: adequate rest, relationships, regular meals and other self-care, other work, house work, any semblance of free time... We hope that we are able to communicate our intentions for the play, and worry... that we won't. At the first audience laugh, we exhale... just a little. But there's the next laugh line, the next visual gag, the next tense moment, the next calculated reveal... And before each one, we pray that everything we've done up until that moment was the right way to do it, and that audiences will find your work, in some way, moving.

Then, it's over.

That's the nature of the beast. Theater is temporary. That goal, that has consumed our lives for so long, is just...gone. Forever.

So we clean up the detritus of the production that strewn all over our homes and cars, and we try to get back into "real life," without The Play. Laundry and grocery shopping and social functions and family, oh, a meal, served on plates, eaten with forks, sitting at a table at home.

But there's been a death, of sorts. A major part of your life is no longer there, and we have to bury it before we can get back to the land of the living. There is a mourning period when it's gone. Sometimes it's just a flash, a minor adjustment, but sometimes, it takes longer to get over the loss, and it hurts.

Theater is a funny art form. It's exhausting and frustrating and joyful and challenging and delicate and maddening and beautiful and triumphant and a will-o-the-wisp and a siren song and a phantom and a mirage. And it's why I have such a long, long list of projects, always waiting for me to come back to them.

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