Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Ever Have One Of Those Weeks?

Ever Have One Of Those Weeks?

...Well, I've had one of those months. Make that two. Going on three.

As you may have surmised from my post yesterday, my day job has been getting the better of me lately. In other words -- if you can call this better -- it's an additional 40 hours per week on top of the 50+ I've already been working.

So much for having a life.

In fact, if you've been keeping track of my theatre reviews over the past couple months, you may have seen a precipitous decline in my level of enjoyment and enthusiasm. When I've actually managed to get to a theatre -- one of my life's major pleasures -- very little has really been able to provide me with the type of escape I need most. (Thank goodness for Conor McPherson's truly exceptional play.)

Heck, due to the demands at work, I even had to cut back on my holiday vacation, at first scrapping my long gestating plans to go to Japan altogether, only to resuscitate it into a three-day quickie over Christmas.

Recently, my job has been living me.

So what little time I've actually been able to devote to seeing live theatre, let alone writing about it, has left me a bit dry and largely unfulfilled. I just haven't been moved by most of what I've taken in. And as for escape, well, who wants to watch other people's troubles when you're facing challenges of your own -- particularly when you know you have no choice but to tackle them.

Which leads me to ponder whether the emotional baggage and drudgery of daily life we carry with us into a theatre can diminish our unique personal responses to the shows we're seeing. After the past couple months, I'm now inclined to say that they most definitely can.

In other words, if something is keeping you up at night, making you lose precious sleep, how can you even begin to turn it off just because you happen to sit down into a theatre seat? What's your experience been?

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 05 February, 2008, Blogger Erica said...

Steve - I understand what you're going through sometimes you work the job... and then sometimes the job WORKS you.

I'm going through something similar right now with my day job, as I know you've noticed my infrequent posting.

Now as to your post question - Theater is almost always my most reliable "mental vacation" - the only exception if a particular piece is awful.

Like the beginning of Cabaret 'here everything is beautiful' comes to mind...One of the joys of the theater is that it sucks me in and makes me forget my problems. This applies when I'm in the audience or on stage performing.

I'm so sorry the strain of work is causing you to feel less engaged by the shows you are seeing.

Perhaps focusing on "Candy Shows" ones that are oh-so-sweet and not too heavy is the way to go for the near future. "Guys and Dolls" is a good choice for that (and a favorite of yours I see) Other favorites of mine include Anything Goes, Thoroughly Modern Millie and Suessical.

Good Luck and I hope things calm down for you!

At 05 February, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Thanks a million, Erica. I'll have to find one of those "Candy Shows" to just sit back and relax... and enjoy!!!

At 06 February, 2008, Blogger Esther said...

As a caregiver, it's hard for me to completely relax and shut out the outside world. Still, I think a lot of it depends on how much I'm connecting with what I'm seeing on stage.

When I saw "August: Osage County," I knew that my father was home alone. The next night, when I saw "Rock 'n' Roll," I knew that a family member was with him. So I should have felt more relaxed and been able to lose myself more in "Rock 'n' Roll." But just the opposite happened. "August: Osage County" was totally absorbing. I was able to completely shut out any anxiety I might have felt. I never got into "Rock 'n' Roll." I thought it was overrated and boring.

Sometimes, you're just not in the mood for a particular show on a particular day. The Sunday that I saw "Mary Poppins" was the day we met for the first time. We had lunch, and then you were going to your show and I was going to mine, and we were meeting up afterward to see "The Color Purple."

Let me tell you, that was not the day for me to see a 2 hour and 45 minute show! All I could think about was, I just met my new friend Steve three hours ago, and from the first moment it was like we'd been friends forever, and I'm so excited, and I know he's going to be waiting for me when this show ends, if it ever ends! I was more antsy than the 5-year-old sitting next to me! (I did enjoy it, although on that day I wish it had been about 45 minutes shorter!)

"The Color Purple" was the first Broadway show I saw with someone, and that definitely gave it a special resonance. I've loved shows that I've seen alone, but seeing a show with someone makes it more special.

I think Erica has a good point about the "candy shows" too. You have seen some pretty heavy, depressing stuff lately. So I'm sure that's part of it. Plus, I know how many hours you've been putting in at work, and how exhausted you are.

Sometimes it's hard to keep the outside world at bay. But you've been through a particularly difficult time. I know your next Broadway trip will be a good one. And since I've already seen "The 39 Steps" I'm predicting that it will help recharge those batteries and be just the candy you need!

At 06 February, 2008, Blogger Esther said...

Just one more thing about theater as an escape. Some parts of "August: Osage County" reminded me of things going on in my life. (Well, not the acid-tongued, pill-popping mother, thankfully!) Ordinarily, I might think, "I don't want to see this, it's too close to home." But I felt just the opposite. I found I could really relate to what was happening on stage. In a way, by hitting kind of close to home, it was an escape, kind of like an emotional outlet. I knew how some of the characters felt, what they were going through. So sometimes, it's not a bad thing if the outside world intrudes on what you're seeing on stage.

At 06 February, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve - I love the graphic....I relate to this totally.....

See, when someone is as remarkable as you are these pressures and displeasures abound in the workplace.....

I also relate tohow you can't separate work and the story.
Those stories/plays in which someone walks onstage and either resembles or has the tonal qualities of the co-worker/manager/subordinate, the last person of whom you wish to be reminded. That just stirs up every-thing in your mind from which/whom you truly believed you had taken a respite.

Then there he/she/the problem is glaring at you from the stage and rotating in your mind......the conflict of which is absorbing your attention most.....you try to put this out of your mind and concentrate on the show but again that resurfaces and the unsettled feelings linger but you are surely hoping the character gets her/his due......if that happens then
that catharsis resolves, fictionally and momentarily, two separate dilemmas........

That's such an exhilaration, albeit for such a short time as we go back to our jobs later that week or the next. The pressures that made "playtime" possible resume.

I really like the dark, dark shows where one is virtually eviscerated and their lives laid bare and seeing that I know I could be worse off.
I also like the candy shows where I walk out in a good mood which stays with me for some time.
I like shows with good laughter, not lame jokes, but good solid laughter even in black comedy.

I really like the graphic as it reminds me of Henne (one of Steve's dogs) when she sees a squirrel or one of my cats....

Things will calm down and then you'll be bored.....

At 06 February, 2008, Blogger Mondschein said...

For me (and as I've told every manager I've ever worked for), the reason I work is so that I can do other things. Top of that list of Other Things is theatre, be it attending or performing.

I have been lucky in my non-theatre career that when the job has become more burden than benefactor, I've been able to transfer into a different role without having to change companies.

I sense that there is a lot you like about your job, Steve, but if it's taking over your life, you need to have a LONG chat with your boss about it. A *good* employer doesn't want unhappy, overworked, and thus, unproductive employees. And, your boss may not know there's a problem until you bring it up.

A change in career can do wonders for one's perspective on life - almost as much as seeing a great show!

At 06 February, 2008, Blogger Alicia said...

I think the wonderful thing about theatre is that it is such a live experience and your enjoyment, or lack thereof, is definitely a combination of the material, the performance and your state of mind when you are watching it.

If you recently had a parent commit suicide, I would imagine that August: Osage County would be a very different experience than for someone with both parents alive and kicking. While for some, watching August after living through that pain would be therapeutic, for others it would be torture. And those are the ones that go for the escape shows: Spamalot or Young Frankenstein. I kind of equate it to food... Sometimes I'm in the mood for juicy steak to sink my teeth into and sometimes I just want something light, like a big salad. And if I'm in the mood for a steak, please don't give me a salad, it will just make me grumpy!

And the variable that makes theatre so gloriously different from film, is the energy that is shared between the performers and the audience. If the audience is really engaged, it energizes the performers. If there are understudies on or if actors are feeling under the weather, it affects the performance. And sometimes there is just no connection being made at all. There is nothing worse that going to a comedy where nobody is laughing or a drama where people are.

There really is no other art form as immediate, as interactive and as universal. Storytelling is its grandest form... And I think it is our love of stories, instilled in us when we were young, that keeps us going back.

At 07 February, 2008, Anonymous kieron said...

Hi Steve, i hope i dont sound rude. What is your job, ive always pondered this. Please keep up the good work, ive never been to america or experienced broadway but through your blogs i feel like ive already been seen most of the plays and loved them or haed them just like you!!
if your ever in london we could always see something togteher!!!

At 07 February, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Thanks everyone for your kind words and for reaffirming how one's mood is everything when seeing a show.

For those wondering, I oversee ("direct") public relations and internal communications for a large travel company, the name of which I'll never divulge here because, quite frankly, I don't want anyone to ever accuse me of shamelessly plugging it, even though that's what I get paid to do in my day job.

I've always loved my job and hope that the craziness of the past few months calms down - and I think it will now that some of the major communications I've been spearheading have been announced.

Still, I have two more reviews of shows I managed to squeeze in during the months-long maelstrom, and sadly, even though one of them was a candy show I saw before, it just didn't register quite as well for me as it did when I first saw it in previews.

I'm looking forward to getting my mojo back. I truly appreciate all the support I've received both via comments here, as well as offline. You've lifted my spirits. Hope I can return the favor some day!


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