THEATER TALK: Repeat Offenders, Part II
Back to the topic at hand though: theatrical repeat offenders. As we established last week, I am one such "criminal" (though if loving theater is wrong, I don't want to be right!).
So though we know that I am clearly a crazy woman for spending as much time and money as I do on seeing a show multiple times, why do I do it? Theater is an indelible experience, a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing, right? Well, yes. And no. First of all, I have a terrible memory, and I can never remember every detail of a show. It's nice to return to a show and pick up on details I didn't catch before.
This ties into another point about rewatching shows: like many movies, well-written shows are often peppered with clues about the ending of the show. Take a musical like "Next to Normal," for example: watching it the first time is an entirely different experience from watching it subsequent times. Even if the show doesn't have a big "twist" like the one in "Next to Normal," it's still fun to watch for little things the characters do that reveal their later actions, or how a line from earlier can be incredibly relevant later. Anton Chekhov famously said, "If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don't put it there." This is a principle that holds true throughout good playwriting (and book-writing, in the case of musicals), and it can be fun to look for the "pistols" throughout the play, be they pieces of the set, stray lines of dialogue, or even costuming. In a show, everything is done for a purpose, and it can be fun to go back and try to figure out what the purpose is for certain key elements.
Secondly, my favorite thing about theater is its engaging nature. Theater is inherently live, which means anything can happen. I've seen one actor play the part of Graffiti Pete in the first song of "In the Heights," and then witnessed another actor play him for the rest of the show. At the performance of "Leap of Faith" I attended, Raul Esparza almost fell into the orchestra pit (he was fine, and played it off like the consummate professional he is). Gavin Creel was known for his delicious riffs on the score of "Hair" while he played Claude. There's something very exciting about the idea that every show is a unique experience.
I think the main reason that I am (and others are) drawn back to the same show(s) over and over again is that they can be comforting, as odd as that may sound. Much like listening to a favorite CD, or sinking into a comfy chair with a great book and a fuzzy blanket, watching a beloved show yet again can provide a subtle relief and release. Even though I know every line before it is said or sung, even though I've memorized every beat of the show and can immediately tell when someone's dropped a line or mixed up a lyric, these shows feel like my home away from home. And isn't that why theater exists, to bring us away from our lives and usher us into those of other people?
Reach Katie here.