Pandemic Changes How Live Theater Works

Playbill of “Choir Boy”

My first Broadway show was "The Color Purple," in 2006. It was one of the most magnificent things I had ever seen. The lights, the costumes, the set and the courage it takes to perform reminded me of when I was younger, and my teacher cast me as Wendy in the school's production of "Peter Pan." I was so terrified; I broke out in hives. It showed me that I am supposed to work behind the scenes and not on stage. For that reason, I try to support theater as much as I can. 

Before COVID-19, going to the theater was an experience. The excitement always began with explaining a show to my sister, so she could be just as excited as I am. I am never entirely as successful as I would like to be, but she always agrees to go to the theater with me. We would try to make a day of it by getting to know the city. It always felt like a special occasion when we went to the theater. Because I work in theater, I have more opportunities to see more plays, and what goes into putting on a show. 

There is something special about meeting the production team, going to a read-through, and seeing how much the show has progressed from the read-through to what they perform on stage. There is something magical about sitting in the audience of a sold-out show with unfamiliar faces, getting to know each other, all because of a common interest in theater. It was always fun to meet people who got together five times within the season and had done so for years. 

The pandemic has changed how live theater operates. There's no longer the thrill of making it a day. Theaters had to learn how to adjust and stream their performances after working out an agreement with unions. Although it is still fun to see how different the performance is from being on the stage to being on the screen, the feel is different. It is not as electrifying. You don't get to hear the audience's gasp as they try to piece together "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," or their boisterous laughter as a group of men enter a bar and plan a play for the duke and duchess in "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Losing live theater means losing the spontaneity of "anything can happen." 

There are some perks to streaming the plays. You get to watch plays from the comfort of your home, and it costs a little less than seeing a live production. You also don't have to get dressed up to see the show. With most theater companies, you can watch the performance at any time, or you have 24 hours before the link expires. However, the viewers do have to worry about their internet connection. 

The last play I saw on Broadway was "Choir Boy." I enjoyed it so much, I saw it twice. It was fun to have a day with friends who also enjoy going to the theater and seeing a brilliant play. Sitting in the crowd and watching outstanding performances from amazing actors was great. The theater made the experience even better by having a post-show symposium. I loved the show so much that I brought my sister to see it. It was fascinating to see if the audience would laugh at the same parts I did, or if they would even find it interesting. 

As theaters adjust to what will be their new routine, theatergoers are missing out on the experience. Vaccines are becoming available more often, and theaters are opening up at a specific capacity. While being able to stream performances has its perks, I cannot wait to go back to the theater.

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