I love many things about theatre.
The lights, the music, the camaraderie, the set design, the choreography, the props, the costuming, the audience–even the countless rehearsals and late nights, if I’m involved with a show’s production.
I also have a running mental list of moments I want to remember forever: climbing the holly tree with my brother when we lived in Virginia, belting Let it Go with my sister for no reason in particular, Meghan’s surprise when she found the cherry limeade I’d left her on our porch, helping Becky get her stuff to the car in the pouring rain, dinner with my parents before leaving for another summer in North Carolina, the taste of fresh strawberries in Galway, the awe that comes from staring at the Alps.
Theatre, though–there’s something about particular moments in theatre that resonate so completely with me, moments that make me understand how the Greeks used theatre so adeptly for catharsis. Of course, that’s not always the case, but sometimes–
Sometimes, there are moments in theatre that make you feel utterly, impossibly alive.
Last year, I saw Les Miserables on stage about a month after I’d seen the movie. The story had completely inundated me. Let’s be real: a story whose central moving force is grace extended, grace accepted, grace transforming and who has a character death centered around the fact that he simply could not accept grace? I was sold from the get-go.
As much as I love the movie, though, the theatre production goes above and beyond what a film could ever do. In the production I saw, the final scene closed with these two set pieces sliding apart. The entire stage is swathed in darkness until the golden backlight fades in, silhouetting all of those who died as they move slowly through the fog towards Valjean, singing.
Also, tears. Pretty sure Emalyn and I sobbed our way through that finale.
Well, a few weeks ago, Basia and I joined some other friends and people from our building to see Phantom of the Opera when it was in Philly.
Both of us have a deep and abiding love for this play, so we were pretty excited.
In the production we saw, the prologue concludes (as always) with the auction of Lot #666–the repaired chandelier, originally covered in canvas and hanging somewhere above rows J and K. As the auctioneer cued the spotlights towards it, the canvas was sucked into the chandelier and, as the lights sparked off of the set piece, it began to move.
You know the song. Basia and I practically wept our way through the rest of the play.
Some people, I realize, are not huge fans of theatre (my best friend among them). While I don’t completely understand that, I do understand what draws people in to theatre. Whether we’re working backstage, reciting lines, or watching from the audience, theatre is about contributing towards a story.
And there’s something about a good story–whatever the narrative and its form–that inherently captivates us, reminds us that there is purpose in life and that our lives can be part of the most magnificent story ever told, that everyone around us carries their own stories, too, and sometimes those of others–
that we can always be learning; that we are always works are always works in progress; and that we are always, always full of possibility.
You don’t have to love books or theatre to enjoy good story. You just have to be human.