A Significant Weekend of Theatre

Last year on Valentine's Day weekend, I took a trip to NYC.

The impetus of the trip was seeing Cabaret with my grandmother, but I ended up seeing four more plays. All them were radically different, but each blew my mind and have been driving me to create what I create.

When I need to remember what kind of theatre I like, what are the moments that drive me back into dark rooms to watch people play, I think of this weekend.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

The weekend started with a 10PM performance of John Cameron Mitchell in his musical, Hedwig and the Angry Inch. This musical and the movie introduced me to so much in regards to the aesthetics of glam punk rock, one-person shows, 90s queer culture, and the German culture it references. I had seen Neil Patrick Harris and Andrew Rannells in the role, but Mitchell was something completely different. Even with one leg in a brace from a mid-show injury, he pulled off a 90 minute, emotionally and physically draining performance. Perhaps it was a choice, or pain meds, but it truly felt as though Hedwig could have collapsed at any moment. That was the danger, the immediacy to the performance. On the precipice of self-destruction, a human in beta. I loved every second of it.

Big Love

I had planned on seeing Hamilton at this time, I tried to get tickets months in advance. It didn't happen. I tried the lottery. No go. With some friends, walking up the street, I remembered that a production of this play I read for class and loved was happening. It was Valentine's Day and a play about love felt appropriate. We high-tailed it from Union to Time Square, grabbed tickets at the Signature Theatre, and strapped in for this one act. I love the script. I love Chuck Mee. Tina Landau's staging was incredible. What I will never forget is the climax of the play. Her choices. I picked up on each detail and got so excited I began hyperventilating, nearly to the point I thought I might pass out. Never have I felt that way at the theatre before.

The Iceman Cometh

That night, alone, I went to Brooklyn to see Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy in Eugene O'Neill's five hour play at BAM. It remains the longest piece of theatre I've seen in my life. And it earned every minute. The lighting design was a member of the brilliant ensemble cast. Nathan Lane's act four monologue destroyed me. Following the performance I rode the subway with a high school English teacher who had studied and taught the play for quite some time (probably decades). I spoke about my initial reactions. Since I was alone I took notes. This is a play about the wrong kind of pity.


A perfect musical. That's what I have to say. Perfection is usually boring. But this production achieves perfection and entertainment and emotional engagement. I went to see Emma Stone's last performance, after I had seen the production without her in August. A year later I recall her Sally reaching me all the way in the back of the Mezzanine, and the Emcee felt less of a presence in comparison. Aesthetically, I'm drawn to the grunge, the Weimar-era musical style, and the constant gentle swaying choreographed throughout the production. I get chills thinking about it.

An Octoroon

There is probably a word for something like this: when you hear something is good, worth seeing, and you manage to go see it without a single expectation. At intermission I remember thinking: too much melodrama, I'm not sure when to laugh or not. After the second act: wow. I felt something.
When I think back to seeing that production I know the kind of response I look for in my writing: a strong juxtaposition of pleasurable discomfort and sharp humor. The deconstruction of race through makeup, the way the set was as important as any character, line, or plot moment. How the play's alienation effect criticized and educated the audience on the genre of melodrama and metatheatre.
Currently it's my favorite play, and I cannot wait to see it staged again.
ArtsEmerson, with CompanyOne produced the play in a sold-out run, much to my joy.

An actual note in my journal from after I saw An Octoroon at TFANA

• • •