Opinion: It’s Not Real Theatre Unless My Knee Is Absolutely Smashed Against The Seat In Front of Me
by Spencer Meade. @spennyislennie (Instagram), @comeadey (Twitter).
Since COVID-19 shut down performance spaces, events like Stephen Sondheim’s birthday, Broadway fundraisers, and community theater productions have gone digital in an effort to make theater accessible during the pandemic. That’s great and all, but let’s be honest: it’s not really theatre without one key element.
Real theatre is where you experience the lights, the adrenaline rush of the curtain rising, and, above all else, the feeling of having your kneecaps smashed against the seat in front of you because the theater wasn’t built for humans over 5’4”.
Some elements of the theatrical experience just can’t be replicated on a Zoom call. Like the sound of Audra McDonald’s voice reverberating through a packed house; the camaraderie you feel with your fellow patrons as you silently glare at the tourist filming the show during Act II after all the ushers have fucked off for the night; or, and I can’t stress this enough, having your kneecaps constantly scream bloody murder while being shoved into the human equivalent of a sardine can.
This isn’t to say that those digital “shows” aren’t enjoyable - but they simply can’t match the atmosphere that comes from being in a space where the line to the only bathroom in a three story theater is fifty people long before you’ve even left your seat for intermission, or men screaming from the balcony about how much they love the female lead, or you feel like you need to saw your legs in half because your knees are throbbing so hard that you’d honestly just rather lose them at this point. TO BE CLEAR: THE KNEE THING IS WHAT I LOVE ABOUT LIVE THEATRE AND IS AN ESSENTIAL PART OF THE THEATRICAL EXPERIENCE!
Needless to say, I cannot wait for live spaces to reopen. Theatre is my home away from home. It’s where I’ve had some of my most magical life experiences, and my kneecaps are too complacent and need that sweet relief that can only be filled by getting jammed so far in between the seats in front of me that they're used as an arm rest.
Stay safe everybody!