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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Theater-going: It's a circus, alright

click to enlarge cinderella.jpg

I saw two impressive, diametrically-opposite shows last weekend: the family-friendly musical Cinderella Della Circus at the Center for Puppetry Arts and the taut political drama In Darfur at Horizon Theatre. My review of the world premiere of Cinderella Della Circus is now on-line. I previewed In Darfur last week, will write about it a little more in this blog this week, and will have a review up next week.

Both of the shows I attended demonstrated a phenomenon that completely baffles me: people showing up after a play begins. Now, we all live in Atlanta, and we know that traffic karma sometimes aspires against us, so sometimes people can't help being tardy, especially with the Downtown Connector repaving project having just commenced. (At the same time, we all should know that Atlanta traffic sucks and should plan accordingly.) And everyone knows — and if they don't, they should — that latecomers are major distractions as they move down the aisles, search the darkened theater for seats and get themselves settled. Even people who try to be conscientious sound like a herd of elephants. Horizon has a set of steps at the back of the house that emits resounding creaks.

I'm not just distracted by the noise and activity, but also by a nagging question involving the super-latecomers: what kind of person arrives at a show a HALF-HOUR after curtain time and still wants to see it? That happened at both Cinderella Della Circus and In Darfur, shows that are roughly 60 and 90 minutes, respectively. Why would you still want to see a show having missed, one half or even one third of its content? Am I crazy? Isn't it impossible to follow the plot? Do you really feel like you get your money's worth? It's not like the movies, where you can stay and see the beginning of the next show to find out what you missed (assuming people can still do that).

Remember the scene in Spider-man 2 when Peter Parker arrives late for Mary Jane's play, and the usher (in a cameo by Bruce Campbell) adamantly refuses to seat him, pointing to a "NO LATE SEATING" sign? Does that still happen, or has that become a thing of the past? Sometimes I can tell when ushers hold the late-comers until a break between scenes or a lull in the action, to make the intrusions less disruptive, but I don't know of audiences being refused admittance.

Maybe theaters have strict policies for rescheduling tickets, although I'd be very surprised if that were the case at the Center for Puppetry Arts or Horizon Theatre (unless the run of the show in question is sold out). Perhaps one of my knowledgeable readers can enlighten me.

(Photo courtesy of the Center for Puppetry Arts)

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