…And the performances hold onto me even now when the day has passed far beyond a few hundred hours. I knew then that I wanted to profess my love to the theatre because there is something rare with this art. I had my first taste of it, being on stage, when I was just 8 or 9; however, not a performer. Due to irrational shyness and lack of self-confidence, I refused the request of my teacher to dance on stage with the other girls, so instead, she asked that I handle the curtains. For such an easy job, I took it very seriously. My hands holding onto the rope tightly, waiting for the cues in the music to lift the curtain. I got to bow with her at the end and hear the applause.
Since then, I’ve had a few “acting” (if one can even call it that) and theatre experiences in career and small projects; even in dance which I never would’ve thought. It’s interesting to play a role and have someone ask if the situation I acted was real because it was believable. Fortunately, it wasn’t, but I was appreciative for the words.
On the other side, I really enjoy being the audience member more. I am an observer at heart, I think. The art of performance in theatre is so beautiful and authentic (as authentic as acting can be). For the ones that never get recorded, there isn’t another chance to see it. Even if they’re playing for months, each matinee and nightly show is different. Having worked in a theatre before, I’ve heard performers complain that they felt their performance for a specific show sucked, but for the audience members, they didn’t seem to notice because I heard them speak sweet praises as they left. For them, it is the first and last time to see that show at that time. There is no rewind button or streaming option online. They can’t watch re-runs of it. It’s live. There is a show and then it’s over.
I suspect this is why I love concerts, too. The energy and atmosphere just cannot be replicated; even in memories. The actors on stage, if they’re good, can really pull people in. They only have one chance. Messing up means we all see it without the option to edit themselves later. With the help of sound, lighting and props, I am so impressed with how well the story can be conveyed and how the simplest movement or silence can mean so much. A shadow on the wall can signify a window. A table can become a bed or a bench at the park. All these mechanics take part in creating this imaginary, yet real space. There is also an odd dynamic with seeing a performance live because it teaches the audience to practice structured empathy and compassion because there is someone literally in front of us showing emotion, but there is also a boundary. We cannot be fully involved. If there is laughter, sure, we can laugh with them. But if there are tears of sadness, we cannot console them or tell them it’ll be okay. So being an audience member means we can sometimes participate and sometimes we cannot. However, we all share this specific space and time.
The art of live performances and all that comes with it is kind of old-fashioned if you think about it. Living in the digital age, it makes this kind of entertainment and medium even more valuable to me.
Maybe I’ve romanticized this, but in thinking of the life of the performer/surgeon/teacher/artist and the work they put in means it is an art of passion. I admire those who really put a lot into their craft and skill because I know a lot of the time it is internal. There are so many important moments of practice, diligence and care that no one sees. With the final lesson, product or art piece, there is a sense of love and belonging, too; even if it’s something with one person, someone somewhere will appreciate it. And they will share it. They will remember how it felt. Ironically, the art of passion is beautiful because it cannot be saved or physically held or fully seen. But it can be felt. Like how my mom used to scold me when I pulled beautiful flowers off of trees or bushes, she’d say that I should leave it because it is beautiful as is. Taking it would destroy the beauty. So having only one chance or opportunity to experience something is really powerful and meaningful in itself.