Wednesday night was a hurtful and disruptive night, the worst I've experienced in the past three years. And doing theatre in New Orleans is hurtful and disruptive on a good night.
I don't intend to write about that here. I don't want to keep it in my memory.
What I want to preserve is an encounter I had after our pick-up rehearsal was over, and I had driven back into the Quarter, parked the car, and stopped in at the Golden Lantern for some supportive company and a breather.
I was there for only a few minutes before someone came up to me to tell me how much he had enjoyed The Glass Menagerie on its opening night.
He knew the play, he said. He knew it well and loved it, but seeing our production had revealed new things to him for him to revel in. He'd walked home afterwards wrapped in thoughts about what he'd seen. He'd woken the next morning with those thoughts still undulating in his brain. Even now, a week later, the play was still with him.
Our interpretation had changed his life, he told me, as simply as he could.
It is rare when one's own words are handed back to him.
I've believed for some years now that any work of art succeeds insofar as it induces positive change in the person viewing it, and here was someone echoing, and fostering, my own belief.
I've seen a lot of plays that have not wrung a change in me. At best, they've allowed a little time to pass, during which I might have been engaged in some self-destructive behavior. To tell the truth, I have not seen that many plays because I've come to distrust their promise of change, but, oh, there have been those special few that have fed my faith to such a degree that I trudge on in my craft in the face of frequent disappointment.
The audiences that have viewed this Menagerie have, for the most part, been the kind of audiences I have always sought: people who are self- and world-aware, people who participate in the experience being shown to them, people who engage in mental conversation with the playwright and his text, people who are willing to be moved and somehow altered.
Those people are becoming rare as our theatres submit to the idolatry that razzle-dazzle is a desirable end unto itself, that simple-mindedness can be counted on to entertain, that showing off with a wink and a grin is sufficient for the masses.
Until we throw the gauntlet down and challenge the best that is in us and our audiences, the best we seek to reach will not respond.
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