Friday, February 12, 2016

When did you first fall in love with theatre?

A few years ago (and undoubtedly this year) on Valentine’s day I saw a post online asking, “When did you first fall in love with theatre?” For me, this is both a simple and a complicated question. When did I first fall in love with “doing” theatre? As a child, I put on puppet shows, made tape recording of “radio plays” I wrote, and all kinds of make-believe happened. These are all forms of making theatre. I often think that I would love to climb under a table and have it be a secret entrance to another world like it was in Kindergarten.Once the awkwardness and tension of late elementary and middle school set in, I didn’t do any kind of theatre. Not until late in high school, on the other side of the work did I start. And since then I have not stopped.

When did I first fall in love with seeing theatre? I have three memories of seeing theatre as a young person. I was enthralled by the full transformation of space and the human form at a production of CATS when I was in 5th grade. (I know, a musical, and of all things, CATS.) It was magical. in 8th grade, I remember attending A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Arena Stage. Again: magical, but a different kind of magic this time. I remember so clearly that the part of Puck was played by a woman, and she wore black and white striped knee-highs below here cut-off pantaloons. The magic of this world was created simply, by the complete engagement of the body and voice of this actor, and by the clean lines and simplicity of the costumes.

Just as you develop and grow to learn what a loving relationship is, these early experiences weren’t really love, simply crushes. As a senior in college, I saw a production of Peer Gynt by the National Theater of the Deaf. I paid $5. (Oh, student prices!) I had studied the play in class, but there is no substitute for seeing/hearing/feeling a play. And this production used light and sound in ways that I had never experienced before. It wove puppets, mask and costume into the experience in ways that I had never experienced before. (I now know this production was a collaboration with Pilobolus.) A story of searching for one’s identity that is heart-wrenching and funny, and told/shown in such a compelling way. I sat in my chair when the show ended, not wanting it to be over, not wanting to move and break the spell. Again: a kind of magic.

My love of seeing theatre is refreshed anytime I see a show that moves me, that takes my breath away and makes me lean forward in my seat. I don’t always have that experience sitting in a theatre.  But these are the experiences I want to have: to have my ideas and assumptions challenged, to question what it means to be human and to see characters, or cities, or worlds, struggle with what it means to be a community. And my love of making theatre is closely tied to those same questions and challenges. I know a show is really good when I simultaneously think, “I can never do that and I should stop doing theatre altogether” AND “I want to do that and I must keep working.”

I fell in love with theatre and I stay in love with theatre when I see good work. It inspires me to do good work.  So, when did you first fall in love with theatre?

~Carey Cahoon