Saturday, September 11, 2010

On the Excruciation of Bad Theater - Part 1

Last night I saw a terrible show. It was so bad it was sublime. It approached perfection in it's awfulness.

But it wasn't a horrible experience, which was surprising given the fact that watching bad theater is a wretched ordeal - close to dental surgery - that explains why this red-headed stepchild of all the arts is always reported to be dying. It's not that theater is really dying. It's that bad theater is killing it's audience. Seeing bad theater is often a "well-I'll-never-do-that-again" kind of thing so bad plays reduce the audience of theater in general.

The wonderful thing about theater is that it's a living, breathing, communal experience. An ephemeral connection is made and a short-lived community is born out of the common emotions and ideas. It's not private but it's intimate. It's a shared experience that's also unique and personal. There's nothing better than a space filling with swells of laughter, applause or quiet tears. It can be an intense, passionate and mind-altering experience.

When theater fails it's a lot like bad sex. Embarrassment, resentment and recriminations follow. The thing with bad sex is that you can talk it over or leave the room when you realize it's bad. In theater the show must go on and it's not appropriate to talk during the show. It's often difficult to leave. As an audience member you have been cheated. You came to have a good experience, to be entertained or moved or enlightened. Instead you're trapped in a room with people who are doing something terrible, if not too you than at least toward you, and you have almost no recourse. You can't even ascertain if the rest of the audience feels the same way.

You're alone in hell and you have to wait until intermission at least before you can pee.

Last night was only like that for a short time, however. There were some mitigating factors that kept me from clawing my eyes out.

Yogi is awake. I will continue this later.

1 comment:

  1. Keep writing Johnny! There are few people who's opinion on Theatre I respect more. Lord knows, you've put in your time.