Monday, August 17, 2009


Oh, Boston,

If you aren’t in New York, you should be at FeverFest. Or should have been, at this point. I was there last weekend, and, sure, my company has a show in it, so I’m prolly a little biased, but there is some great local theatre in there.

If, however, you are in New York, you are maybe attending some of the Fringe Festival. I know I am. I could write “reviews” of what I’m seeing, but you know that’s not my style (for those keeping track, 4 plays in a day and a half, 2 more today). I want to talk about matinees.

Matinees have a strange vibe. It’s as if the air of the room hasn’t woken up yet. I saw this pretty magical show in Brooklyn yesterday in a cool club where banquet seating is surrounded by water. At night, this venue was clearly a cool, hip place to be. But, at 3:00 in the afternoon, it lost some of its darker charms. While the company tried to mask the day bleeding through the windows, there was no escaping it. We were at a matinee.

They had an open bar – and booze is becoming much more plentiful at the theatre these days. It loosens the strictures on theatre-going imposed by a snooty German sometime ago. Sit quietly in the dark, and applaud in the breaks. No, thank you. A longing for the rambunctious Elizabethan days can be felt in many a downtown theatre (however much longing one can have for an unwashed mass throwing vegetables and insults at the stage). Booze helps, for those who partake.

But I wonder something else. Actors have a higher social standing then they once did. So, back in the day, you went to the theatre to see people of your status or below, to pick up a prostitute and maybe get out some of the stress of your peasantry. Sure, you were probably perpetually pretty drunk what with water carrying fatal or just unpleasant disease, you have no choice but to drink wine all the time. So, maybe as one stepped into the playhouses of yesteryear, your inhibitions were fairly loose as is, but I have to imagine, the relative freedom one might have felt in the theatre within a rigid class system to come outside themselves. Like the senior stuffing the freshman in a locker because he was stuffed in a locker when he was a freshman.

I’m not suggesting that we relegate actors back to the dregs of society. I believe theatre is the highest art form – if you can even measure things like that – because it most clearly and directly evokes the human experience. I think some Greek guy said something similar. But, part of the magic in the theatre is lost when we divorce ourselves entirely from our dark and seedy past. Perhaps, a way to recapture it is to avoid the deadly matinee, and rekindle our transgressive intentions with more late night shows and open bars.

Of course, the MBTA would need to help us out a little more.