Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Theater Mania

When I was a high school freshman, I fell in love. Not with an individual, but rather with an experience--live theater. That love has remained a constant in my life. Here's the story.

One of my high school teachers organized a trip to the Oregon Shakepeare Festival in Ashland Oregon. My readers on the west coast will no doubt recognize that name. Those of you in other parts of the country may be surprised to learn that OSF is one of the most respected theater companies in the world. My mother offered to accompany the group as a chaperon. I had never before seen productions as stunning as these. I was absolutely captivated. 

A couple of years later, my mother suggested we make a trip to Ashland, just the two of us. And thus began an annual tradition that we maintained for many years. We even went a few times after I moved to the midwest. It was the highlight of every year.

Over the years, I have embraced live theater in places other than Ashland. I have enjoyed Music Circus in Sacramento, big Broadway-style productions in both London and Chicago, intimate theater-in-the-round at my university, and the wonderful Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

Every time I sit in a theater seat, I feel a rush of excitement as the house lights dim. A really good production, even simple ones, give me a thrill like nothing else.

I once saw a Russian-language production of Twelfth Night at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater performed only by men. It was part of CST's world theater project. I didn't expect to like it but in fact I loved it passionately.

In college, I participated in the stage crew for a production of Three Penny Opera in which the director emphasized Bertolt Brecht's idea of breaking down the "fourth wall" by placing the actors' make up tables in the lobby. Brilliant.

The show that transported me more than any other, besides those in Ashland, was probably The Phantom of the Opera which I saw in London. It absolutely blew my mind. I couldn't help myself--I bought the sweatshirt with the glow-in-the-dark mask on the front.

I'm telling you all of this to provide context for my next post. Come on back, friends. There's more to this story.

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