There’s a whole way of life waiting to be discovered by you. Characters are a little brighter, plots are a little more extravagant. Six days a week, hundreds of people get together to create something indescribably amazing. Yes, folks, I’m talking about theater. A few days ago I went to see my first Broadway show(it was better than words allow for me to express.) My love of theater dates far before then. It was with the assistance of the Arlington Public Library that I became a true “theater person.”
How about starting with a classic: The GlassMenagerie by Tennessee Williams. I’d begun this book and couldn’t stop until Tom’s final little speech to the audience. The word theatre (not using the American spelling, because theater dates back to long before American Broadway) originates from the Ancient Greek theáomai, meaning to observe. That’s a spot-on definition for theatre: an intimate setting in which you observe an ongoing conversation between one, two, three, sixty people up there on the stage through song, dance, dialogue, body language. The audience is merely eavesdropping, just as a reader is eavesdropping on the life of a character.
Tom Wingfield tells the story of his sister, Laura, and mother, Amanda, throughout a one-act play. He is troubled, and does not like the notion of staying with crippled, self-conscious Laura and Amanda, whose glory days have long since past. This play will break your heart, mend it, and threaten to shatter it once again. And while you’re at it, read every single other one of Mr. Williams' beautiful plays. And his essays, too.
Wicked. Oh, everyone knows the story of little Dorothy in Oz. And because of the spectacular Broadway musical, everyone knows the Wicked Witch’s side of the story. Maybe that witch wasn’t so wicked. But what is that fantastic, kid-friendly musical based on? Gregory Maguire’s Wicked will shock you as very un-kid-friendly. It will also shock you that Steven Schwartz took some creative liscence when creating the musical. The book is ominous with a side of sarcastic fright. You will fall in love with every character and dote on Wicked’s every beautifully illustrated landscape. I’m including this as a theatre-related read because, after all, it is the basis for a musical.
Ending on a high note: last month I discovered an amazing play by the name of The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe by Jane Wagner. You are introduced to outspoken, crazy Trudy, who is forthcoming about everything: including her contact with creatures from outer space. Other plots intertwine with Trudy’s, with a conclusion that will leave you pondering just about everything. You will laugh, your brain will be pushed to its limits thinking about aliens and quantum psychics and feminism. It was later performed on Broadway as a one-woman show. I’m just waiting on a revival.
And if you’re hungry for more theater-related things, the library has plenty of the original Broadway recordings of different musicals on CD.To enhance your theater geekery to the next level, check out Ultimate Broadway and Ultimate Broadway 2. Those CDs have the most famous songs from the most famous musicals in theater history. Or, to get the feel of theater in the comfort of your basement, check out the first three seasons of my favorite TV show, Glee. It’s where Broadway meets teen angst with great doses of humor, drama, and romance.
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