My family are theater geeks.
We’re not actors, really—only my brother has spent any real time on a professional stage–but we love plays. We grew up with season tickets to Pioneer Memorial Theater in Salt Lake (as it was called back then. Now it’s Pioneer Theater Company, I think). As kids, we watched musicals at home, we did plays at church, we went to theater camps. And now, as adults, we take trips to New York to see shows on Broadway and shows in DC, and always, always, there is the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City. At least some member of my family goes there every summer. I’m here now, writing this blog post from my hotel room after seeing 6 plays in 3 days.
If you live in Utah, and haven’t been to the Utah Shakespeare Festival, you should repent immediately and go. It’s great fun, the scenery is beautiful, and the plays are excellent. Usually. Occasionally, very occasionally, there is a stinker. And not everybody in my family agrees about whether or not the play is very good. I mean, just tonight we saw Henry IV part 1 (a play I have never seen, a play that is probably not performed by anybody other than hard core theaters with hard core theater geek fans in the audience, because seriously, who gives flip about Henry IV. For that matter, the only reason anybody gives a flip about the next guy, Henry V, is because Kenneth Branagh did an awesome movie of it). At the end, my sister and I jumped to our feet and I yelled, “Bravo!” Seriously, I don’t think I have ever yelled “Bravo” in my life. But I was blown away by the acting, the staging, everything. My sister and I sighed that it was the BEST. PLAY. EVER! I looked around to share our exuberant feelings with my other sister and her husband.
They weren’t there.
They had left at intermission.
They were totally and completely BORED OUT OF THEIR MINDS, and figured if the rest of the play was going to be this awful, they just wouldn’t be able to stand it, and so they left.
Seriously? They missed the BEST PLAY of the whole season!
Clearly, they didn’t think so.
Yesterday, we saw Twelfth Night. I love Twelfth Night. I ADORE Twelfth Night. I can quote big chunks of Twelfth Night by heart.
I slept through most of the first half. Soooooooo boring. I hated the set, the costumes, the acting, the whole thing. Blech.
At intermission, my sister bounded up and said, “Are you LOVING it?”
Nope. Not so much.
Whence cometh such big differences in taste?
Sometimes I wonder if such snobbery comes from seeing the same plays over and over again. I spent some time with the history of the Festival tonight, and concluded that they’ve produced Twelfth Night 9 times in their 50 years of operation. It rivals only A Midsummer’s Night Dream and The Taming of the Shrew for frequency of staging. It’s a popular play. I’ve seen it a lot. Not just at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, but at other venues too (toldja, we’re theater geeks. Or, to put a more erudite spin on it, “patrons of the arts”). They’ve staged Henry IV part 1 only twice (because, like I said, nobody really gives a flying flip), so I came into the play with no expectations or preconceived notions. I don’t know the jokes (of which there are many, courtesy of Sir John Falstaff), I don’t know the characters, I don’t know the underlying tensions. It was all unfolded to me brand new, which was maybe why I liked it so much. New theater experiences are always fun, especially when it’s good theater.
And yet, half my family thought it sucked.
Book people are like this too. I have lots of friends who are literary snobs, and yet their tastes vary widely. It’s hard to figure out why out of a group of 100 women who have read the same book, you are likely to find a wide range of loving it to hating it.
(That particular range is what makes my own book group so incredibly awesome, by the way. Nothing better for a discussion to have a person gushing about a book and then to have another person answer–“Yeah, I hated it.” Good times, my friends, good times.)
Ah, Shakespeare, you rascal. Giving people such joy and also such boredom, sometimes at the very same time.
Are you a theater geek? Do you enjoy Shakespeare, or think he’s boring? Don’t be shy to confess you hate Shakespeare. I confess I hate Dickens, and that’s like heresy in some literary circles. If you do enjoy Shakespeare, what is your favorite Shakespeare play and why?