Service of Live Performance Bonuses

March 4th, 2013

Categories: Actors, Live Performances, Music

audience

We were at an American Symphony Orchestra concert at Bard College near Rhinebeck, NY on a recent weekend when a woman approached us from the row behind to tell us she was glad we were back in our original seats.

For a moment I felt I was in school where I knew kids in the grades ahead of me and almost nobody behind: I’d never before seen the woman, though I recognize many subscribers who sit in the seats in front of ours.

Leon Botstein, conductor and music director, American Symphony Orchestra

Leon Botstein, conductor and music director, American Symphony Orchestra

I was flattered that she noticed us and appreciated that she spoke. I forget sometimes that I’m not the only one who looks around.

The other week I went to see Monique Sanchez [below, right] in “Kennedy’s Children,” by Robert Patrick, on West 44th Street, inches from Times Square, in a space designed like a bar decorated for Valentine’s Day. Patrick’s play opened in 1973 to an audience fresh from the 1960s which he captured in his characters—one worshiper of JFK and one of Marilyn Monroe, a protest-follower, a Viet Nam soldier on drugs and an actor who accepted every role regardless of how outrageous [i.e. an underwater play].

 

Actor Monique Sanchez in red

Actor Monique Sanchez in red

The audience sat at tables around the room—we munched on popcorn refilled at intermission and sipped [free] soft drinks from the bar–and actors mingled as they spoke their lines, sitting in the chairs reserved for them, speaking with members of the audience.

There was open seating and the hostess sat me next to a woman who turned out to be an actor and acting instructor. We sipped ginger ale, learned a bit about each other, over intermission chatted about the actors and characters and again, as we gathered our things to leave, about the play. As a result I enjoyed the evening even more.

Sanchez, a 21st century actor to watch, was the Marilyn Monroe devotee stung by the star’s untimely death in 1962 who, like hundreds of others, hoped to take her place on the world stage. She transformed herself into a vamp increasingly sinking into an alcoholic stupor fed by disappointment and disillusionment–a character nothing like the solid, responsible person I know. [You can see Sanchez in a Belle Époque farce by Georges Feydeau, “Flea in Her Ear,” March 15-March 23 at the Producer’s Club.]

Have you made propitious acquaintances at live performances—one of the bonuses?

 audience in the park

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4 Responses to “Service of Live Performance Bonuses”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    No.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    I am surprised when it happens…I have a few more examples but the ones in the post were the most recent.

    It has to do with seating luck. Once I was sitting next to the father of a soloist who asked me if I thought she was any good. Another time I was sitting next to the director of a school’s conservatory orchestra who was delighted by my enthusiasm.

  3. jpm Said:

    It’s interesting. A recurring theme of your blog, unintentional perhaps, seems to be the reminder that our customs are as diverse – and sometimes as contradictory – as the places from whence we have come.

    Today’s post is a case in point. When we were young, I, and, if I recall correctly, quite a few of my peers were strictly taught not to speak with strangers in public places like theaters. (This may sound silly today, but this was more than fifty years ago, when more traditional customs were still dominant.) I did once, and learned much from the experience.

    Years ago, like so many college students did in those days, I went through a phase (It didn’t last long.) of infatuation with the bohemian, the avant-garde, starving artists, poverty and the like. From books about the golden age of opera, I learned that young singers and musicians often bought “standing room” tickets because they were cheap and the acoustics as good as anywhere in the theater.

    I decided I’d try standing through an opera, and one evening went down to the old Met and bought a “standing room” ticket for $2.00. I remember vividly and listening to the music with mostly male humanity packed in tight all around me, but for some reason, for the life of me, I can’t recall which opera it was.

    In any case, at intermission, a pudgy fellow, about forty, started up a conversation with me, and boy, did he know about opera! Then the second act started, and my new found friend told me to stand at the rail, while he stood in back of me looking over my shoulder. The sightlines were great.

    A few bars into the music, I began to feel something bumping into my backside. Instinctively, I thrust my right elbow back as hard as I could, catching Mr. Pudge just under his rib cage.

    Surprised, he staggered back knocking a couple of other standees off balance. In the confusion, I grabbed my coat and dashed for the nearby door to the auditorium. I was out of the building before anyone thought to stop me.

    So much for my talking to strangers at live performances. No thanks.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    JPM,

    What a horrible experience! Yech. Some night at the opera. No wonder you didn’t remember which one it was!

    I was brought up not to speak with stangers as well but in NYC, it seemed to be OK even then, on public busses. My mother would often strike up a conversation with a fellow bus rider and when I was an adult, I too would although I soon moved to the subway where it happens less often.

    I realize that con people are dangerous and talented. We didn’t exchange names with the people behind us at the concert and exchanged only first names with the woman at the play. As she pulled together her winter clothing indoors, I was out the door, putting on my ear muffs and gloves on the way to the subway. Friendly, yes. Too friendly, no.

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