By Meg Zulch
I've always been very staunch about my distaste for theatre. With the exception of the film adaptation of Rent, which is arguably one of my favorite movies of all time, I spent most of my life trying to steer clear of drama club kids and theatre productions.
Among other things, plays were less than desirable for me because of (and I'm aware this is childish) boredom. My total attention deficit has limited my visual entertainment to TV shows, with movies being too long to sit through without finding myself feeling a certain measure of mental exhaustion by the the midway point. And plays were an entirely different story. Whenever I found myself having to sit through one, usually a Broadway play my school or parents had dragged me too, I had to resist the urge of checking the time on my phone or bolting out of the theatre. And even though my mind would often go entirely numb through most of these performances, I would still silently praise myself the entire time, convincing myself that I was becoming "cultured." Clearly, based on my use of the phrases "sit through" and "dragged," I was clearly not absorbing any culture as long as I wasn't a willing participant.
I used to have a million reasons why I don't like plays that didn't really make much sense. Like, for example, uncomfortable seating and unfamiliar faces on stage. Now, I chalk it up to the painfully stubborn way in which I decide I hate things without using much logic to back it up. The same way I used to "hate" cauliflower and Carly Rae Jepsen. I'd say I hated these things, but really they were just a couple of items on my long list of things I decided was worth dismissing before having given them a chance. Like theatre, I never gave either of these things the time of day long enough to make an argument either way. Until recently...
After I transferred to a college dedicated to the arts, I began making a lot of actor friends. And then I started dating one. Skylar, a theatre and production major, was a tall devastatingly beautiful goofball and I fell completely in love with them pretty quickly. Their quirky yet smart manner of dressing and their exaggerated clumsy tendencies reminded me of a young Dick Van Dyke. And so did their acting.
After running through lines with them once, in my attempt to help them prepare for the play they were in, I became obsessed with watching them rehearse. Seeing Skylar take on a new voice and set of physical quirks as their eyes danced with passion and excitement was magical. It filled me with such excitement and respect for what they do, and filled me with a greater understanding of the world of theatre.
Besides Skylar's exceptional acting talent, what drew me in the most about their craft was its ability to transport them away from the darker parts of their brain. Or perhaps even help them express their darkness in a space and in a way they feel safe to do so: on stage and through character.
On the play's opening night, I got to see everything they'd been talking about, everything they'd been preparing for, come alive right before my eyes. And in that moment I felt I finally understood. I found myself being fully immersed in every scene without ever having to check my phone or resisting the urge to stretch my restless legs. I surrendered myself to the beauty of theatre, and to characters and themes that get you invested the way TV or movies do, and I didn't regret one second.
What struck me the most about theatre is the fact that stage productions are such huge and meticulously tailored works of masterpiece that will disappear forever after the few days that the show is open. This is what still gets to me to this day, the impermanence of Skylar's work. As a writer, my work always lives for those to see, whether it's on a website or saved in my Google Docs. But my partner's work is so different. They spend weeks of their time laboring over something that their audience can only experience for a short while. They are essentially creating a moment in time for the enjoyment of others, until the show closes days later. And in my opinion, it takes a certain kind of hero to take part in such a noble and selfless act. With Skylar being a lovely and selfless human being and all, their taste for theatre is certainly not out of character.
After seeing them in a stage production for the first time, it no longer felt right, or even possible, to snobbishly write off an entire art form the way I had formerly done. An art that was incredibly magical and enjoyable, as well as the labor and passion of my life partner. I understood, and from there I could never go back. In fact, I've been to Broadway three times since we started seeing each other, and finally got to enjoy it each time. Observing Skylar's art, and art through their eyes, caused me to see all of the beauty I was missing out on and transport me to yet another world that I was safe to lose myself in. A world as scary as our own in all of its beauty and impermanence.