Friday, February 05, 2016

How Do You Get A Giraffe Out Of The Theater?

We didn't go to San Francisco just to see Super Bowl City. Fog City has so much else to offer. There are plenty of other lines in which one could wait while visiting Baghdad By The Bay. My brother, my wife and I had made the trek to take in some theater. We had the opportunity to buy overpriced NFL swag, but we stayed for a performance of "The Book of Liz." It marked the official end of the Christmas season, as these were tickets purchased for my brother as a present, as he is a fan of all things Sedaris.
I enjoyed the play: eighty minutes of sarcastic David Sedaris wit punctuated by his sister Amy's jokes about flatulence, as described by the theater company's director before the show began. I watched with amusement, but was distracted by what I could only describe as the intimacy of the production. We were downstairs in a room that compressed about one hundred seats into one side of the room, which left the front row to dangle their toes precariously close to the lip of the stage that was made obvious mostly by the lights and the black tape that marked its edge. The audience sat in the dark, in rows, behind this tape. We sat quietly and passively while the actors cavorted about on the other side of that tape. I was aware of transitions between scenes, accented by the raising and lowering of those lights, as well as the pointed story points that came along with them.
Then I drifted away still further, wondering about the people behind the biographical sketches on the back of the program. Were these intentionally pithy blurbs written with the intent of reflecting back the nature of the play in which they found themselves? I thought of the subtitle I had seen recently on a commercial for one of those fantasy sports sites: "These are real people. Not Actors." The assertion seemed to be that actors could not be real people. There are no people like show people, after all.
That's when I started to feel bad for those folks on the stage, real or not. When the show was over, were they going back to their studio apartment, getting an hour or two of sleep before they had to get up and work a shift at the local convenience store until it was time to head back to the theater where rehearsals for the next big show have gotten underway. They have forsaken friends and family all in the name of their craft. Their closest connections are the ones formed on that stage. Underneath the lights.
There was a time when I thought I might make my living as an artist. A writer. A poet. An actor. Or anyone of the muse-driven types who live for that moment, that phrase, that scene, that perfect shade of umber. I was glad I got to go home with my wife and brother, waking up to the next day with a list a mile long of things I had to do. Sure, I miss the bright lights and the chance to be a star, but this is close enough to fame for me. Right here.

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