Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Balcony @ Stages Theatre

Last night, at the recommendation of a friend, I went to go see the play "The Balcony" at Stages Theatre in Fullerton.  I ride my bike past Stages at least once a day (It's like three blocks from my house), but this was the first show I'd been to.  Fullerton has long had a vibrant theater community, consisting of store front theaters, college theater, and civic groups like the Fullerton Civic Light Opera.  I've always thought, "I need to go to more plays," but I haven't really done this.  I just hadn't made the effort, I guess.  But last night I did, and it was amazing.

The theater is small and intimate, seating about 70 people.  As the show began, I was struck by the fact that watching a play is a much more immediate and human experience than watching a movie, which I do all the time.  Watching real, three-dimensional humans acting out a story forces you to engage and pay attention.  Also, the play had two intermissions, giving time for the audience to reflect on the play and discuss amongst themselves.  How different this is, I thought, than a movie, which we just watch and drive home.  During the intermissions, I found myself thinking about the ideas of the play, and writing notes to myself on my phone.  I knew I'd be writing about what I was seeing and experiencing.

The play, The Balcony, was written by a French guy named Jean Jenet in 1954, and it was translated into contemporary English in 1979.  It takes place in a brothel, while a revolution is happening outside.  The patrons who visit the brothel (a bishop, a judge, a general, the police chief) play out mini versions of their roles in society with the prostitutes.  These comic and absurd little role-playing games offer piercing commentary on the forces at play in the revolution.  The play satirizes these self-important men and their fantasies of power.

It made me think about the kind of music and art and writing I like, which speaks truth to power, and offers a way to reflect on the complexities and problems of reality.  I found myself thinking, "The world needs more places like this theater…little sanctuaries where people can come to watch artists give creative commentary on society, places where we can (for at least a few hours) hover above our weird world and think about it in new ways.

Photo courtesy of Fermented Beers

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