04 April 2007

No Child; Passover; and I Once Took A Class Called "What Was Post-Modern Literature?" - As Great As This Party Was, Post-Modern It Was Not

Remember this? When I saw No Child... and told you how it was the BEST THING I’D EVER SEEN and that you ABSOLUTELY HAD TO SEE IT because it was THE MOST POWERFUL THEATRE I’D SEEN IN A LONG LONG TIME? And you know how, unless you’re that friend of Rocco’s, you didn’t? Well check this out –

All this week (through April 8th) at the Barrow Street Theatre, it's spring break.
Tickets for all shows are just 15 bucks.

Fifteen bucks! Show up 20-30 minutes before showtime, mention the SPRING BREAK code, and you get your $15 tickets. Wednesday-Friday at 7:30pm, Saturday at 2:30 & 7:30, Sunday at 2:30. (Barrow Street Theatre is located at 27 Barrow Street at Seventh Avenue in the West Village, near the Christopher Street Street station.)

This is seriously one of the most powerful, awesome things I’ve ever seen in my life. I fucking love this show. I may very well go back on Sunday. Seriously. Go.

* * *

In the middle of the seder at my mom’s house last night, I got a text message from Matthew-Lee:

At seder. Passover is the most not fun holiday ever. 12 plagues and slavery—whoo!

Which of course came smack in the middle of me being completely in love with the holiday. (And, oddly, my family – I think I might be belatedly outgrowing some teenage-angsty alienation, but that's a topic for another time. Perhaps the therapy my mom wants to put me into.)

Odd that I’m in love with the holiday, too, since for all that I’m agnostic, I’m not agnostic about Judaism, or any Organized Religion, really. If there’s anything, it’s probably not that. [See also: Susan Werner’s awesome new album, "The Gospel Truth," which she calls "Gospel for Agnostics," but is really "Gospel for Agnostic Christians." I love Susan (and love that she’s back to guitar-based folky songs – may she google herself and find this) but her idea of what it means to be agnostic is... specific.] So if I’ve long been done with just about every other aspect of Judaism, why am I so in love with Passover? I can’t come up with anything less silly than my usual ritual-dinners fondness (see also: Thanksgiving), but even going through the Haggadah , except for that one part about “Through all the ages Jews have been oppressed wherever we go” and the God stuff, I’m totally into it. For some reason we read more than usual this year, everyone taking a paragraph to cover the Talmudic debates about when to celebrate Passover (morning or evening) and why to eat horseradish matzah sandwiches. I don’t think of myself as a sucker for tradition, but I liked the idea of recounting the (very-meaningful-to-them) debates that these Rabbis had hundreds of years ago, and then having the seder at night because of what they decided. Or maybe it’s just last stronghold of six years of brainwashing at a Solomon Schechter. I’ve been properly trained - every spring, the week before Passover, we’d have a model seder at school. Maybe my love for Passover lives in my brain next to the part of me that loves watching my favorite moves over and over again – a strange sort of comfort in repetition. It’s like singing an old song I know, except this one is about some things I don’t really believe happened, and instead of singing it’s Hebrew prayers and dipping parsley in salt water.

I don’t mean to dwell on it, but for an avowed agnostic who’s got no (positive) interest in religion, it was odd to be at that table, so totally loving it.

* * *

I’ve been meaning to, and now finally will, write about Essential Self-Defense at Playwrights Horizons, and the recent under-30 night.

The event was the Essential Self-Defense Post-Modern Post-Prom Lock-in Mixer. I have yet to find out how it was actually post-modern, but I’ll let that slide. Basically, for $20, if you’re under 30, you got a ticket to Essential Self-Defense, plus a party afterwards. Girl Scout cookies, S’mac and hot dogs (or just more cookies if you’re a lactose-intolerant vegetarian, but I sure wasn’t gonna complain), free beer & punch (vodka & rootbeer if you got down there when the punch was gone, and ick), free raffle, and 3 awesome, raucous bands.

[Update: There were vegan hot dogs, and I totally missed them! Balls. Acquaintance at PH says I should have complained to her about the uniform meat-ness. I say I was too busy stuffing my mouth with cookies.]

Have you ever been in a sold-out under-30 audience? Perhaps largely made up of friends of the show, but maybe not, and either way, an enthusiastic, generous, eager audience, at a raucous, messy, energetic play? It’s like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.

The night before I’d seen King Hedley II at Signature, my first encounter with August Wilson. Although I’m one of those simpletons who likes something to happen in a play at least once an hour, I still very much appreciated the writing and the production. I also appreciated being in an audience that wasn’t entirely white. Who knew? I’m not one for affirmative action in my audiences, and while the fact of audience skin color is superficial, it was the first indication of a legitimately unusual audience – these weren’t your usual subscribers and theatergoers, attending a play out of a sense of duty or habit. This audience was there because they wanted to be. Specifically, at that play. At the curtain call, one woman among the smattering of standers did this shamanistic variation on applause where she clapped her hands out, away from her, towards the actors, like a blessing in her applause. It seemed a little silly, but she meant it, sending her energy out over the audience to the performers and their work. I have never seen anyone do that at the Biltmore.

The under-30 night at Essential Self-Defense was like that kind of audience/production specificity, times a thousand. I’ve never been in an audience and felt so strongly that a play was being performed for me. Not just for me, but for this entire audience, that I was very much a part of. It wasn’t Brechtian, I wasn’t being made aware of watching a play, disassociated from empathy or engagement, but it was also the most different that watching theatre has ever been for me from watching a film. I wasn’t just a disembodied consciousness in the dark. And it was powerful. And exciting. I talked to one of the actors after the show, and he said the cast felt it, too. It was the freest they’d been – “This is the audience this show is written for.” He meant age, that the usual blue-haired subscribers are not so much vibing on the messy rock aesthetic, but if it had been an audience of 50-year-olds who were particularly receptive, it’d have rocked just as much. Just like under-30 patrons aren’t always too poor for full-price tickets, over-30 audiences aren’t always too stodgy for New plays, but you have to draw the lines somewhere, and this was a solid way to get the right audience into the theatre.

Yes, the audience was eager, probably a little over-eager. It’s rare that I’m outlaughed (volume, oddity of laugh, odd timing of outbursts) by so many people in one audience. I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the play so much in a less enthusiastic audience. But would that experience of the play had been more valid?

(Granted, this isn’t to say that I thought the play was totally perfect and fucking amazing. Some parts felt long. I didn’t go along with some of the choices. But it was fun and bright – gorgeous production – and engaging. Solid ambiguous ending that I very much loved.)

The under-30 audience was only part of the PH brilliance that night, though, because there still was the Lock-In party, which my boss misconstrued as a singles event, asking me the next day if I found a husband. (Not yet!) Marketing directors out there – steal this idea! It took a lot of work, and probably a decent bit of money - I know PH gets funding specifically for under-30 ticketing, but they either laid out cash for the party or worked their asses off finding sponsors – but wouldn’t you like to get 150 or so under-30 patrons completely psyched about what your theatre does? Especially with the young folks-friendly season of exciting new plays Playwrights has lined up for next year, they’ve got a good shot at keeping this audience coming back. If this had been my first time, I’d have been sold. As it is, I just continue to toe the line (or leap, gazelle-like across it) of making an ass of myself with all this PH-love.

Because of the unfortunate power of a single, obnoxious-if-not-100%-wrong review, Essential Self-Defense isn’t quite selling like mad. A recent email went out quoting “younger critics” – also known as bloggers. The pre-opening discounts are also still in effect – use code EDBL for $40 tickets, or if you’re under-30, code EDGE for $20.

3 comments:

Rocco said...

arg, I'm pissed that I missed this, but glad it wasn't the lame attempt at older people trying to be young-people-friendly, that it had potential to be.

By all accounts it was successful. Maybe alcohol is the tickets to getting younger butts in the seats. They should host a whiskey tasting after JOURNEY'S END, or maybe a kegger for THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING.

anna said...

i think it has a lot to do with comfort in repetition, ritual. and the themes of the story resonate hugely with most people. and the hillel sandwiches are so tasty! really, i love that holiday. i helped throw two seders this year.

as you can see, i'm catching up on jaimeness, and i'm envious as always of your theatre-going. i don't know if i've seen a play since moving away from new york. i feel deeply deprived and deeply behind. but i do enjoy living vicariously through you.

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