Monday, February 20, 2012

The Opposite of People

So I feel I have to comment one more time on this.

Over the weekend I was cyber-witness to some posts about a friend's show. Apparently, after the opening night performance, some nasty things were said about what a waste of time the show was. And I commented, commiserating with the people who were criticizing the critics, as it were, and I still stand by what I said.

Even when I am in my critic mode--actual, paid (very little) theatre critic--I understand that what I am doing is nothing compared to what the people on stage are doing. I know that because I've done both. Writing even a very detailed and thoughtful and honest and heartfelt review takes at most a few hours. Rehearsing a show usually takes at minimum 50-75 hours, weeks and weeks of rehearsing, not to mention dozens of hours more memorizing lines and doing other homework on your character.

And the thing is, when I am watching a show, I almost always in some way or another fantasize or daydream or imagine what it would be like to perform in the show I am watching. I think everyone does this; I think it is part of what draws us to theatre, movies and music performances: we imagine ourselves as Pete Townshend or Ricky Roma or Jason Bourne. (weirdest trio of examples ever, off the top of my head...)

And invariably, when actors are involved, this natural tendency to imagine can turn ugly, showing up as jealousy or sniping. The thing is, backstabbing and petty jealousy aside, it must be said that people shitting on what we do is one of the things we as actors have tacitly signed up for. You don’t get to go out there in front of people, hold them hostage for two or three hours (or at least hold their $25 hostage) while you demand their attention and perform, then sit back and wait for the accolades without also being prepared for the shit-colades, as it were. (Shit Colada, anyone?) :-)

At any rate, that is the meaning of ‘putting ourselves out there,’ you know? That’s what makes us stronger than regular humans--and weaker than them too: we have the strength and fearlessness to go perform, true. But we also NEED to perform; we not only do not fear being looked at, we NEED to be looked at. Which makes us weirdly, uniquely strong and weak: if we can admit there's a need to be looked at, then we must also admit there is at least a thread of approval-seeking running through it.

But you don’t get to get looked at without a chance that some people aren’t going to like what they see. That would be the Special Olympics of theatre: you’re all winners here! Gold medals for everyone!

So while part of me empathizes for what I can only assume was someone talking shit at the after party of a show I admittedly haven't seen yet, I have to add the caveat that by performing we invite people to talk about what we do up there. And some of what people say might not be nice.

But anyway, fuck ‘em, once again. They are not us, and we are not them. After all,

“We are actors! We are the opposite of people!”

No comments: