Monday, February 1

1776 and Magic Time

by Liz Flaherty

I've never been in a play. Even though some of those aptitude tests I took in high school suggested I might be good at acting, I've never done it. I can't memorize things, I'm terrified in front of groups of more than two. I've never mastered eyeliner. I have every good reason in the world for not acting. So I'm not going to.

But Duane often acts and/or sings in Ole Olsen, the local theatre group. I read lines with him, tell him he's wonderful (he is), and eat well and chug a little wine with friends at the dinner theatre performance. It's fun and exhilarating. But no, I'm not acting.



With the production that will happen here in a couple of weeks, I've been helping some with costumes. I sewed a dress out of brocade and was reminded of how much I hate sewing brocade. I've shortened pants, made ruffles for jabots and sleeves, and added lace to a few garments. They used a lot of lace in those days. A couple of times, I've sneaked into the theater and watched the cast rehearse 1776.

Wow.

Stage plays, I've decided, are the externalization of books. TV and movies--at least to me--are not. While I enjoy movies and, very occasionally, TV, I more than enjoy the stage. I feel it. It is supposed to very hot in Philadelphia in 1776. The men on the stage were fanning themselves, mopping their faces. I got hot, too. I was alone and trying to be quiet in the nearly deserted auditorium, but I laughed out loud at the funny parts and the songs and then slunk down into my seat so no one would see me. There was an emotional scene where I was brought nearly to tears.

It was magic.

This was a rehearsal. In bookish terms, it was probably a second draft. There were some errors, some forgettings, some laughter in the wrong spots. I think maybe a person or two wasn't there. Another person or two missed cue lines. But it was still magic.

On opening night, it will be the final draft, the one the editor sends you when your story's all clean and perfect and formatted and maybe sometimes you'll cry over it. And you'll feel it right down to your very bones.

I've always come down on the side of books in the "which is better, books or movies?" question. Always. No matter how much I love or how often I watch Little Women and Anne of Green Gables. It might be a little harder for me to answer that question if it was "which is better, books or screenplays?" because a stage play makes me feel things as intensely as reading a book. Almost as intensely as writing one.

But I'm still not acting.

Break a leg, cast of 1776, and thanks for sharing your art.

17 comments:

  1. Dunno about acting on stage, but I love hearing you read scenes from your books. Maybe a future with Audible???

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    1. I agree with Cheryl! Audiobooks, here Liz comes!

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  2. Oh, I would love that. Of course, I hate the sound of my own voice, so I'd never be able to listen. Thanks, Cheryl!

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  3. I'm on the side of books in the books vs. movies debate, too, Liz. But plays...Oh I love a well-put-on play. We went to see a local production of White Christmas over the holidays and it was so much fun!

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    1. I'd love to see that on stage! We saw Sound of Music a few years ago and when the "head nun" sang "Climb Every Mountain" I was a mess--it was so beautiful.

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  4. I make it unanimous. Books are Number 1, but live theatre is a close second. I think it is the immediacy of the actors that gives the emotion and drama depth, and errors lend it humanity. A movie is too polished most of the time. We figure it out rather quickly. A book takes time to digest and gives our imagination room to play. Thanks for a great post that gave us pause!

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    1. I think you're right, Terry. What I think is funny--okay, odd--is that until I sat and watched rehearsal (which I never do for fear of being intrusive) I never realized just how strong the emotional draw of live theatre is.

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  5. I'm solidly in the book camp as well, although like you, I love stage plays. And yes, I'm sappy enough that I love musicals, but the old ones where people burst into song at any moment in between dialogue, not the ones that are nothing but songs. I miss The Music Man and The King and I and yes, 1776--Les Mis and Phantom drove me crazy!

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    1. I haven't seen them, but I think I agree. In a truly terrible parallel, the all-music way of doing it reminds me of why I don't read erotic romance. I like a few love scenes and a whole bunch of story; if it's reversed, I'm done by Chapter Two. I want a bunch of "story" in musical theatre, too,

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  6. I think it depends on the play or book or movie. For the most part, it's books over movies for me. Although, I've actually seen movies that were superior to the books from which they were adapted. Of course, those were books that would have benefited from heavier editing. The 3 really are different vehicles for telling a story so that's why the end product often suffers in translation.

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    1. I'm not sure I ever have preferred a movie. I admit, though, that I will watch Jane Eyre but not read it again. If I see the movie first, I never read the book--I can't think of an exception to that, and I can't really explain it, either.

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  7. I'm late in posting, but have to side with live theatre. Because the actors are human beings in front of you, rather than being an image on a screen or words on a page, there is automatically a more intense pull. In addition, live theatre has the immediacy the others don't. Mistakes are made in live theatre, even by the most professional and rehearsed actors, whereas we get to edit books and movies until the are perfect. I have been in several community theatre performances and love the intense camaraderie from fellow actors and the audience!

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    1. I love the mistakes--not that I always see them. Although I do feel that pull and immediacy, I think there's the thing (with me) that--unlike writing--I can't do what they're doing. I'd love to see you in a show, Ava!

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  8. I acted in several plays in high school, despite my extreme shyness--I just loved it. I wasn't all that good, but it was a blast. I never got a shot at it, partially because I'm a horrible singer, but my dream role would have been John Adams in 1776.

    Just the same, from a writing standpoint I much prefer novels to screenplays ... I tried to write some plays back in school (they were all bad), but I didn't like the limitations in setting. It's the same way I feel in reading, rather than watching movies: Movies are great, but nothing compared to what you see in your head.

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    1. Sit down, John! :-) He's my favorite character, too, but also the revolution-era figure I've studied the most. My least-social grandson is in drama--or was; he's at Ball State now, finding his way--and he loves it!

      I want to try a screenplay one day. One of the actors in Ole Olsen has said he'll help me. I don't have illusions about being able to do it well, but I love the idea of learning about the spareness of it.

      Thanks for coming by!

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  9. I love a good play. High school productions introduced me to Oklahoma! and Brigadoon. I wrote a play for our youth group in high school as well which they put one for the church and it was so cool to see my words acted out. I've also written spec scripts for tv shows when I thought of going that route. I did one for Ally McBeal that actually placed in the Writer's Digest contest that year. And when I watch Ally--I own the entire series--I'm always surprised when "my" episode doesn't air. Because it feels to me that it was produced because they were so real to me. LOL

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    1. I didn't know that, Margie! It's something I want to try to do--just not sure when there's going to be time.

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