The New (Old) Media


Last weekend, I took a step away from the computer — away from the videogames and the internet and the blogosphere — and into a world I’ve never seen from the inside before. I went to see (wait for it!)…

A play.

And by a play, I mean one of those things where you go to a theater and buy a ticket and sit with a bunch of people and… and watch real actors act in real time. It’s like a movie except the actors are right there in front of you. A play. I know, right? They still do those!

In the age of DVRs, YouTube, and hundred-million-dollar Hollywood films, I’m not sure it occurs to many people these days to go see a play. I’d never been to one in my life, but one college production of Boeing Boeing later, I’m salivating for more of this thing they call a play.

Why? What’s the big deal? I hear you ask.

Good question!

Isn’t it the same as a movie but without the polish?

Well, I’m glad you asked, fictional reader.

You know, multiple takes, real locations instead of fake-looking sets… and they don’t have to yell in a movie just so the audience can hear the lines!

O-okay, let me interject here!

And what’s up with–

That’s it! I’m writing you out of this bit!

Alright. Much better. So, to answer those questions — yes. Kind of. Film is definitely more polished and a little truer to life, I suppose. That comes with a certain distance, though, and there’s your tradeoff. Plays are all, “Let’s sacrifice a little verisimilitude in exchange for being right there in the thick of it.” The obviousness of the unreality isn’t even a bad thing, actually; it just means you have to use your imagination a little. You may even get sucked in that much more because of it.

But the crazy, mind-blowing part of seeing a play is the total breakdown of the fourth wall. If you’ve spent a lifetime watching actors on a screen, the feeling of their physical presence in the room is pretty shocking. They’re aware of the audience in return. They pause between lines while laughter dies down. They might even make eye contact, which I’m fairly sure happened at one point.

There I am watching this kid play a character, but then he — the actor! — notices me in the audience, which reminds both of us that I’m watching a play and he’s performing it. I sit there wondering if I looked like I was enjoying myself or if seeing my mug made him forget a line. I’m overthinking it, of course, but the metaness amused me.

The writer in me might have been fascinated by a new (by which I mean old) medium for storytelling, but the not-writer in me was just plain entertained through and through. And if a Digital Age baby like me was this in love with the experience, anyone could find something in it. If you’re like me and you’ve never been to one, no excuses! Next time you’re looking for a movie to go see, check if there are any plays going on in the area. If it’s a college production like this one was, it’ll probably cost way less than a trip to the movies anyway.

Boeing Boeing ain’t a bad place to start if you’re interested. It’s a dang fun, funny play.


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