October 02, 2005

Friday night at the theatre

It's true that I've never been to a movie by myself. I don't think I've ever even watched a television show by myself. But my husband is out of town, and Friday night I did go to a play by myself.

Well, maybe not exactly by myself. It was me and about two hundred college students. Most of them eighteen years old.

At dusk, I met my students on the patio outside their dorm and passed out the tickets. It was a cool fall evening, a perfect night for walking downtown. My urban students have been to plays before, of course, but some of the students from small rural towns had never been to a live performance before. Some of the students were dressed up for the event, and many started switching tickets to make sure they could sit near their dates. Our first year students live in three different dorms, and about sixty students from the dorm up on the hill came walking down to meet us.

We started the long walk to the theatre, following the ugly grey streets of Snowstorm City, past a hospital, past parking lots, past anonymous brick buildings. At the first cross street, I looked down to see a gang of students heading towards us, the group from the third dorm walking to meet us.

"Let's wait for them," I said. As we stood there, all lined up along the sidewalk, the harsh street lights glaring on the grey asphalt around us, watching the gang of young people striding purposefully toward us, two of the students behind me began humming the music to West Side Story.

Twenty minutes later, our throng of first year college students converged on the little community theatre, taking up big sections of the place, including most of the balcony. The school administration had paid for our tickets, and the students kept thanking me. As the lights dimmed, they went quiet, all eyes on the stage. During the play, I kept glancing around me, looking at the faces of my students; most were watching intently, laughing at the funny lines, looking subdued at the sad parts.

"Hey, this was fun," said ConstructionManagement Student as we walked out after the show. He sounded surprised.

An usher marvelled: "All these college students! And not a single cell phone went off during the performance."

Even though I am tired on Friday evenings, the experience was completely worth it. I could hear students all around me chatting about the play as we pushed through the doors and went back out into the night.


Teri said...

How wonderful! I'm feeling all warm and fuzzy now at the thought of kids being exposed to the theater for the first time.

reverendmother said...

Oh, I love live theare. I wish we could go more. Actually, I wish I could participate in it--a joy from a former life. Of course there is a sense of theatre for me each Sunday morning, I suppose.

Kristiface said...

ha! Your post reminded me of my own undergrad days when I was one of the many students going to live theater performances. These days I don't get to see them at all.

purple_kangaroo said...

That sounds great. I want to go!

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Wonderful! You have a way of writing that makes everything sound not only fun,but sort of nostalgic. (I want to go, too!)

We, the editors of BloodrootZ, would like to use one or more pieces in our Zine, with your permission of course.


listmaker said...

That sounds like such fun. In a former life I was a theatrical costumer working in community, academic and LORT theatres. I loved working with students, showing them how the magic of theatre happens.

mc said...

I love the image of the Sharks and the Jets meeting on the corner... to see a play! 'Twas good of you to spend your Friday night with them -- and even better that they seemed to appreciate it so much.

Jane Dark said...

What show?

jo(e) said...

It was Neil Simon's Lost in Yonkers.

Rana said...

It's much better watching a movie with other people, even if they are strangers. I saw one once (Toy Story, I think) when I was literally the only person in the theatre. It was very surreal, and made me weirdly self-conscious whenever I found myself laughing, all by myself, in this huge empty room.

I'm so happy your students enjoyed the play!

Terminaldegree said...

This is great.

When I taught Music Appreciation, I used to take my students to a symphony concert, as most of them had never been. (We also went to an art museum, even for a music class, just because I was amazed at how few had ever been.) The kids loved getting to dress up.

I spent about an entire class period each semester prepping the class for the outing, discussing what to wear, when to clap, when (not) to talk, what each instrument looks/sounds like, and the role of each musician (principals, section players, concert master, conductor, etc.). They really took it seriously and sometimes even popped by my office to show off the clothes they planned to wear!

I was always amused by their writeups of the experience. Their favorite part, according to those papers? When I showed them how to sneak into the expensive seats at intermission! :)