Give the theater a chance!
For millions of reasons, Jennifer, 14, thinks you should see a play—you’ll like it!
The other night I was talking to one of my friends on the Internet and he asked me what I was planning on doing this weekend. I told him that I was going to see the school play. He asked, "You are really going to waste your Saturday night at school?" I mentally crossed him off the list of guys I’d go out with.
It bothers me that a lot of teenagers don’t like plays. Whenever I try to talk to people about plays I get the same response: Smile, nod your head, walk away. I feel so frustrated that I can’t get through. Maybe they think going to see plays is uncool or something.
Personally, I’d do anything to go see plays. I like being involved in someone else’s story, even if it is make believe. You can almost become someone else for a while. It’s like getting high on life, you get so caught up in the music or dialogue that you forget to breathe. One of my favorite plays is "Les Miserables," which I first went to see last December at the Ahmanson Theater. Sitting there that night, watching this amazing musical about the French Revolution, I became enthralled. I felt like I was there, in the middle of the revolution, fighting with the men at the barricade. The music, the feeling, the passion, was all unraveling live, right before my very eyes!
As the leader of the rebel soldiers stood on top of a wooden wagon waving a huge red flag, I was anxious, praying that the men would defeat the massive French Army marching towards them, and finally win their freedom! Right at that moment, I wasn’t just a stereotypical teenager struggling with my math homework, or trying to get on the Internet without my parents’ noticing. When I am sitting in the theater I feel sophisticated and cultured and immersed in important problems like fighting for freedom and winning revolutions.
Following my favorite actor
Last summer I called to order tickets to see my favorite actor, Douglas Sills, in the play "Mack and Mabel."
The operator said, "I am very sorry but we are all sold out."
In shock I answered, "You have to be joking, the play is in five months!" But I checked back a few weeks later and they had two tickets left!
"They’re mine!" I told the ticket sales guy. He asked me for my credit card number. I put him on hold and called my mom at work.
"But Jenn, they’re so expensive!" she said.
I pleaded with her to buy the last two tickets. "It’ll be my birthday present." My mom already knew what an incredible actor Douglas Sills was and she wanted to see it too, that’s probably why she agreed to spend the $100 to go see the play.
Finally November rolled around. The afternoon before the performance I was talking to another friend on the Internet, telling him how excited I was to get to see Douglas Sills again. I was trying to figure out what to wear so that he’d recognize me when I went to see him backstage.
My friend asked, "So what, you wanna hook up with him?"
Was that all he could think about? He was such a moron, that was as far as his mind could go. He had reached the boundaries of his intelligence. I was sitting at the computer wondering why I was even talking to him. I tried to explain but I know he didn’t get it.
That night I got to see Mr. Sills in his performance of Mack, in "Mack and Mabel." Our seats were probably the worst seats in the house, but I didn’t mind one bit.
I first saw Douglas Sills in "The Scarlet Pimpernel," a play about the French Revolution. There, standing on the gloomy drawbridge, was the lead character of the play, Percy, in his crushed red velvet jacket singing the most romantic, mesmerizing love song.
Backstage with Douglas Sills
One night I got to interview Mr. Sills before his performance. I met with him in his dressing room at the Ahmanson Theater—it was really exciting to be backstage. People were rushing in and out of his dressing room. Someone was ironing his costumes and another person was putting his hair into a wig, then he was called away for a moment to practice his sword fight scene. While I was interviewing him, he was putting on his make-up and microphones.
The amount of work Mr. Sills put into preparing for his role in "The Scarlet Pimpernel" was incredible. He read the novel a couple times. He read two other period novels and rented five period films depicting the time of the French Revolution, such as A Tale of Two Cities. He went to museums to see interiors and paintings from that period.
Mr. Sills described what he liked about musicals: "I like the size, the scope of the emotions. Ideally, musicals are constructed so that you break into song when words are no longer appropriate, when they will no longer carry the weight of the emotions at stake. I love that the scope and the expanse is so wide, it’s heroic. To me, it’s not unlike a painter suddenly breaking into dance, although words and music are much closer in nature the way they blend in a musical. But it allows you a whole other set of tools to communicate. I think that music affects the soul of the listener in a way that words cannot."
We’re really lucky to be living in L.A., because there are so many different sorts of theaters with a variety of prices. "I guess you have to go looking for it to some degree, but that’s true with all things worth having," said Mr. Sills in response to my question about how to make theater more accessible to teenagers.
I know that theater isn’t the coolest hang out place for most teens, but if you don’t go, you’ll never know what you’re missing out on! As Mr. Sills said, "I think that a person has to have one great experience at the theater and that’s it, that’s a love affair. That’s what they talk about getting bit by the bug."