Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fair is Foul and Foul is Fair: Betty Goes to the Theater and Takes You There.



(Not our local community theater. It's a little place in London called The Globe.)


(Yes, it's a long post. It was a Five-Act play.)


There is something incredibly earnest and honorable about Community Theater.

Here's the situation: a group of citizens comes together in the ancient ritual of telling stories through acting. It’s part of our evolutionary history. Our caveman ancestors often put on plays after a great hunt to tell their fellow cavemen about how the great dead animal placed before them was captured. Just thinking about it and your place in the history of this tradition is enough to make your inner hominid awaken, gather the your loved ones, or the office gang and act out your hunt in the refrigerator for luncheon foods.

I like the fact that community theater gives local people a chance to act. The young high school student, aspiring to become an actor dedicates himself to becoming Hamlet while his friends are busy on the soccer field The teacher during the week plays the harlot in red lipstick on the weekend. The older gentleman finds his niche playing Father Christmas.

We sit back, and enjoy watching these people pursue their passion. OK, OK, occasionally there may be an actor that comes on and all we can think is “Thank God he has this as an outlet.” Otherwise we might find him wandering the parking lot of Wal-Mart mumbling lines from Romeo and Juliet to the shopping carts and searching for gum wrappers that he perceives are messages from outer space.

There is also something honest and homespun about the atmosphere of the humble theater, often found in a small building in an airport or the like. Sure, maybe the seats are worn and frayed, but they are comfortable and cozy. The ticket taker may be the same person who sells snacks and restocks the toilet paper in the bathroom. And yes, maybe the acting is sometimes a little over-the-top and slightly confusing. Maybe the actor that was just killed as the king comes back, filling in as a miscellaneous soldier in the next act, but all of this is evened out by the sincerity of the endeavor. Someone’s grandma crochets the helmets. Someone’s husband builds the sets. No one is out to make a lot of money. No one expects to become a star, and most of the time, the people coming to see the play are generous with their applause and patience.


Saturday night I went to see Macbeth at one of the local theaters with my good buddy who teaches Shakespeare at our college. Of all people to go to a Shakespearean play with, she was the ideal date. Although I had read Macbeth years ago, I had forgotten most of it. She should have dressed in bright yellow and black because I was treating her just like a Cliff’s Notes before, during, and after the play. Heavenly!

The theater had decent number of people in the audience and we settled down in our assigned seats. Now, we are both teachers who deal with 18 and 19 year olds on a daily basis, so we were cool with the inane banter of the two young ladies behind us before the play started. However, soon after the action began, it was clear they had not read the little notation “tragedy” in the program and decided that some action in the play was very, very funny.

(SPOILER ALERT!)

It was when Lady Macbeth came out on the stage, her hands covered with blood, stunned beyond all belief at her recent actions, suffering from guilt and bewildered by her animalistic and primal behavior that the young scholars behind us really let loose with the stifled laughter. Now, both my friend and I are fairly experienced with the wilting power of the directed glare perfected by teachers. We tried this several times, but to no avail. These were tough cookies.

Soon it was intermission. We stood in the back of the theater, stretching our legs and discussing how we would like to reenacted the strangling scene with the girls taking the place of Duncan when I saw the one who was directly behind my seat take off her shoes and extend her sweaty feet over the back of my seat.

As though my eyes were two laser pointers, my vision zoomed in on these feet. Each toenail was painted a dark blue and each toe seemed to be an independent creature—each writhing its way toward the overhead lights—worms of various lengths awakening after a long winter.

After about two minutes of granting the worms free reign, the girl then took the opportunity to use the back of the seat, my seat, as a scratching post for her giant, boney feet. Back and forth across where my head would soon rest, she rubbed her grubby five-toed hooves.

I turned to my friend and said, “I don’t think I can ever sit in that seat again. I really don’t.” My friend agreed. She is even more sensitive to things like this than I am. I’m like a lumberjack willing to eat mold for lunch compared to her.

We moved up one row and the girls were more subdued during acts four and five. Apparently their giant packs of Red Vines and Raisinettes were sedating them somewhat.

Though we had only moved up one row, apparently we had crossed over some invisible, elusive and fine line delineating obnoxiousness and fanaticism. I looked at the back of the man’s head in front of me and realized he had been the same man I had seen earlier and had assumed was one of the actors in the play, based on the fact that he was wearing a long, vest that bespoke (very loudly, I might add) the Elizabethan period.

Just as I was finished staring at the back of his very grey, bushy head, out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of the man to the left of me. He was totally engrossed in the action of the play and had the glassy-eyes of a badger on amphetamines. He was sucking down a Coke and chomping on popcorn occasionally, his eyes never leaving the action on the stage.

It was clear he knew the play very well and so, anticipating each and every movement on stage was ready to react about five seconds before everyone else. I watched the action on the stage, but also found myself glancing over at him for the pre-action reaction. It was some sort of weird reverse delayed reaction situation. As McDuff’s family is threatened on stage, I wondered if they would be killed. I quickly looked over and saw his advanced reaction and knew they were, indeed, goners. A human Cliff’s Notes to my right AND a free pre-reaction to my left? I was so prepared for anything Shakespeare tried to throw at me!


Going to the theater was indeed quite the experience. The range of emotions was wide—happiness, disgust, fascination, disbelief…and that was only from watching the people in the seats. Who knows? Someday Betty might just move from the seats to take her rightful place on the stage.

For now though, I’ll just be content to gather the office wing gang around me and act out my extensive hunt for the string cheese, or the apple that was hiding in the door of the refrigerator. My eyes will grow wide as I describe the mustard bottle that I captured and squeezed hard over my sandwich. “Out, Out, of the Damn Spout!” I shall cry…to thunderous applause.


49 comments:

Mamma has spoken said...

At least you found humor in the situation :o/
Though whenever I go to the theater like this there is no food aloud especially during the performance. And yes there is an usher in place that will kick you out if he catches you with food.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

A well enjoyed read Betty, what about the food the theatre sells in the intervals?

Yvonne.

Teresa Evangeline said...

Betty, You have perfectly described community theater. I have never understood why people have to eat at a theater, whether a movie or live on stage. It's like we don't know how to do anything that doesn't involve food. Of course, that's where movie theaters make their money, but with live theater it should be forbidden. Listen to me. I think you touched a nerve. But you did so with humor, so thanks for balancing it out and looking for a way to get past the situation through laughter.

baygirl32 said...

great post Betty, thank you for taking us with you.

Anne Gallagher said...

I miss the theatre. I was a community actress for a few years out of high school. I think the applause was the thing.

I also miss going. We had an excellent one back home and they did such an incredible job. I went once down here and was shocked at the play they performed. Supposedly a black comedy, but it was shrouded in racism, literally. Not my cup of tea. Give me Lady MacBeth anyday.

Out on the prairie said...

What an interesting experience. I really enjoy going to these plays, where I live it is some of the few cultural things that happen.You picked a good choice to see, there are fans of certain plays that are interesting as the play itself.Did you know a rose by another name in Romeo and Juliet was a raz at another theater?

Seams Inspired said...

Should've thrown a jettatura to that girl, Betty. ;o)

I love the theater...in the audience and on stage. It's a fabulous experience. Let us know when you make your debut. Happy Wednesday! :o)

Jules said...

Sorry about the mutants in the theater but LOL, "Out, Out, of the damn spout!" :D
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Jayne said...

My, my, a theatre that entertains with cast and audience! I love local theatre. Amazing how much talent there is right in your own neighborhood--and it's wonderful to be able to support the arts that way.
Very entertaining post, Betty! :)

Katherines Corner said...

Giggle, making memories! We go to the theaters here too. We have several not far from home and we have marvelous experiences every time we go. Our favorite is called hale center theater its in the round and a great experience every time, Bug Hugs!

Linda said...

I felt as if I was right there with you, Betty. I was the boring one to the right of the Cliff's Notes. You know, the one looking for a kid small enough and greedy enough to let me pay him to crawl under the seats and snatch the shoes of the miscreant whose bare feet and blue toes were being rubbed all over the back of the chair in front of her.

Donna said...

...I Can Not Believe you let her Keep Her Feet?!!!! And trust me when I say I would Not have been the one to move! Where Are Manners these days???
GooooodGrief!!
hughugs

Kristina said...

What a recap. Must say favorite line : "and had the glassy-eyes of a badger on amphetamines"

Love coming to your blog BB! Have a beautiful day!

Stephanie Faris said...

We went to see A Christmas Carol at Christmastime in my husband's small hometown. It's not quite the same in Nashville, a bigger city. Many of the actors actually are professional actors. In his small town they were as you described. Teachers by day, actors at night. It was so fun!

Georgina Dollface said...

Oh my, the girl giving herself a pedicure with the back of your seat, GROSS!

I love theatre. I always have, I just never indulged myself enough. My Mom got FM and I a bundle of theatre tickets for my birthday last year. We saw Shaw's "The Philanderer" last weekend and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" two weeks before that. Later this month we are going to see "The Graduate". I'm so excited and can't wait to see what the next season offers! Thanks for sharing this very funny story! - G

EmptyNester said...

I am not a fan of plays. As a matter of fact, the only way I've ever gone are the times DD3 was in them. I just can't sit still that long and I get so bored...but I do appreciate the actors and what it takes to get up on stage and be judged---I am certainly too chicken to attempt it! And I would have enjoyed pinching that girl's toes off her feet. LOL

Leah J. Utas said...

You have truly captured the essence of the community as it comes to community theatre.

Eve said...

Great post Betty! I love theatre and was involved in community theatre years ago..it's such a fantastic and ancient outlet for us parking lot mumblers! lol!

Brian said...

Now that was funny! Hey, I think that guy from the wal-mart parking lot lives in our neighborhood!

Nancy said...

You make me wish I would make time to go to the theater. Theatre?

It's one of those things on my list that I never seem to get around to. Maybe this summer...

Donea Lee said...

Omigosh, too funny!! Glassy badger eyes and amphetamines...wonderful. :) And who seriously scratches their naked feet on a public chair? Really? Glad you found the humor in it all. There's a local theater like this where I live and it's always fun to go! Although... I might bring some Clorox wipes with me next time...

Madi and Mom said...

MOL BB....mom has a very large purse...on the rare ocassions she and dad go to the movie she smuggles in popcorn...can you say cheap? Mom remembers one line from Macbeth...she thinks something about 'out out damn spot'.
MOL
We are sorry to be late but since Mom retired she dedicates Weds. to taking her parents on errands...she just got home.
Hugs Madi and Mom

Madi and Mom said...

PS
BB our title is quite clever!!
M&M

Theanne and Baron said...

How interesting to have entertainment on stage and off! I've been to some dinner theaters and local theater group productions over the years. I once saw the Helen Keller story on a stage the size of a dime and actually it was pretty good! The young lady playing a young Helen Keller did a tremendous job portraying Ms. Keller.
Enjoyed sharing your experience, well maybe all except the feet, and the laughing, and the having to move! *smile*

Gigi said...

I LOVE community theater!!! But, she DID NOT use your seat as a scratching post!? Ewwww - that's a girl whose mama forgot to teach some manners to!

Ann said...

Believe it or not I have never been to the theater, unless of course you count the school auditorium when my kids were in plays? No? I didn't think so.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

You took people watching to an entire new level.
I get so irritated by the feet up on the seat thing.

Marlene said...

Ahhh....I love a good play. I haven't been to a community theater play in over a year. time to go again, eh?

Liz said...

At first I was all, "Oh, Betty's so sweet to support her friend and community theater." But then you got into the worms and hooves and laser pointer eyes. Sounds like much of the action was going on in the audience.

Pat said...

Snort! I loved that you thought your friend should have worn yellow and black like the Cliff Notes!

I'm surprised you didn't say anything to those two snots behind you! Yuk! How ignorant putting her sweaty feet up on your chair!

I'm glad you still were able to enjoy the play after all that!

The Retired One said...

Hilarious re-enactment of the experience..loved it.

jenny_o said...

So much grist for your blog-mill at that event!! Thank you for the results!

Mary Ann said...

Very good description of community theatre...my son did it for a few years.

Ms. A said...

I'm sorry, I would have been all over those girls, like a dirty shirt! I have no patience for anything remotely related to obscene behavior, like nekid feet on the back of my seat. I would have put my foot on the back of her "seat".

Jennifer Shirk said...

I've never been to a community theater before, but I'm so glad I can live vicariously through you.
That was really hilarious--especially the description of "glassy-eyes of a badger on amphetamines". Man, I need to steal that! LOL

Cricket said...

Red vines and popcorn at Macbeth???

Great post. I'm a fan of community theatre myself, and minor league ball, and other things like that which are done with love and don't cost me an arm and a leg.

I recently attended a local production of JCSuperstar that went similarly, though it was held in a church so the stretching out was minimal.

My son (8) kept asking about the "recycled" actors... "why are the Apostles making fun of Jesus now?" "Well, they're not playing the Apostles now... now they're supposed to be the mob..."

I don't think he really got it.

There were several moments of near-comedy as Judas wrestled with his failing voice, resorting to ever increasing histrionics in a vain attempt to compensate. Truthfully, it sounded as if he did have a good voice... just one that was not up to three consecutive performances.

Well, that's part of the fun. And he earned his applause all the same for struggling through.

Mrs.C said...

Oh dear, those feet on your seat would have done me in. I'm afraid I would have found it really hard not to say anything.

When I was a youngster, a sweet teacher taught us theater ettiquete. We surely need more of those teachers, people just don't have a clue do they?

I love our community theater, they do a tremendous job each time they host a production.

Thanks for this post, I love the way you tell a story!

Lazarus said...

Hilarious post. My favorite line: "...grubby, five-toed hooves." Awesome, loved it! And the lumberjack eating mold for lunch, great imagery... Lemme know when you're in a starring role, I'll be in the front row...

Brian (not the cat) said...

You are like that all-seeing eye floating above the pyramid on the back of the dollar bill.

Baby Sister said...

You were more patient with those girls than I would have been. Sounds like fun though. :)


p.s have I mentioned that I like your new header? I don't remember, but I do!! :)

Lemmiwinks said...

great post as always

Tracy said...

sometimes Betty, the best you can do is laugh...good post!

Daisy said...

Betty, this is a gem of a post. Loved it all the way through. You have such a wonderful way of describing things and finding the humor in everything. Thanks for all the chuckles that came with this one.

My son is playing in the pit orchestra for the high school's performance of "Thoroughly Modern Millie" this weekend. I hope the people behind me don't use my seat as their foot rest! :D

Leanne said...

OH, how I love this post. It brought me back to a time in my life when I was one of those on the stage. We did Shakespeare, too ... Romeo & Juliet ... and I was one hell of a nuse, I tell ya! ;)

The foot on the chair portion of the story . . . eeeewwwwwwwwww!!! Made me a little sick to my stomach (I have feet issues - I understand their functionality, but think they are rather icky to look at.) I would have moved seats, too!

Thanks for transporting me to another time in my life, my dear. LOVED IT!!

Flartus said...

Your descriptions were so engrossing, I had to get some popcorn before I could finish.

Miss Chef and I are hoping to attend a Shakespeare play at the Globe this summer. I will have to report back on the availability of snacks during the performance.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Betty, I am so sorry to hear about your mother had I known would have put another post for M.
Thank you for the comment.
Yvonne.

Shan said...

I was just sure you were the teacher/harlot actress... loved how the plot twisted and turned!

Cynthia said...

Just checking in, Gaylene, to tell you I still think your blog is one of the most awesome ever! Always engaging, funny, and often tender and touching too. Bravo!

The Adorkable Ditz said...

That first paragraph sounds all too familiar...Hmm I wonder where I have heard it before!