Monday, September 6, 2010

You Ain't Go No Alibi: Watching U.G.L.Y. performed by the Howard University Theatre Department

"Ugly, Gina, ugly, Gina!" The jeers and insults drip from the girls' mouths onto the audience. They may be dressed in normal jeans and T-shirts, reading their parts from scripts and music propped up on music stands, but I am mesmerized. I can't even see their faces for the hoard of people crowding towards the roped-off seating area. I remember that I am in love with theater (like art, science, and... french, too).

It's the booming nature of their voices over my head, into the back of the long, carpeted "Grand Foyer" of the JFK Memorial Center for the Performing Arts. It's the colloquialisms that have the audience laughing and clapping as we hear our own voices captured in theirs. It's the way that every inflection is magnified, every dirty look or pitying glance or lovestruck gaze or hopeful tremor until it can be seen by the 600 people gathered in the room. How can you not love this form of art? It is the acting, but above the acting. It's the music, but through the music. It's the script, but more than the script. Theater, the "performing arts" is the place where everything is used, and nothing wasted. Choices actors make to look left or right, step forward or not, are used by the director to say something about the character. Lights are used, music is used, costumes and makeup are used. There's tremendous economy in theater. It even uses its audience to be part of the process and product!

So imagining to myself that Washington, DC is full of budding theater-lovers and possibly some pretty fantastic plays is like imagining myself in a giant room full of my favorite books, being told I can spend as much time there as I want and read everything as much as I want (a more typical analogy would be the old kid in the candy store - but personally I think that poor kid is trapped in the store and so sick that she'll eat nothing but carrots and celery the rest of her days after being force-fed copious amounts of Twizzlers, chocolate, M &Ms, lollipops and Peeps). It's hard not to jump up and down and say, "Okay, let's forget about class and work and just go watch plays!"

I know I can't do that, but the thought is tempting. That's one of the things about being in a city: everything is a bus/metro ride, or walkable, and you're tricked into thinking that you can just hop on something and go regardless of your other commitments. But there's also something so special about being close to where these things are happening. I find my mind thinks more and more about theater and art and music now that there are opportunities to hear those professionals outside my door. I am more aware of, even in just a little bit of time, the buzz and energy of the arts in the city.

Yesterday when I was getting coffee with a friend at Port City Java on 7th St, SE (right by Eastern Market), a live performance of folk music was being set up. My apartment and some other girls went to the 9th Annual "Page to Stage" performance of Darius Smith's U.G.L.Y. at the Kennedy Center last night. There was a concert on Capitol Hill, a blue festival out towards Maryland (or Virginia...), there are art galleries and museums everywhere you turn. Washington, DC may be a land of politics and power, but it's got an underbelly of artistic and theatrical life that I feel especially excited to explore.

So for all you out there following this blog who love theater and the arts, I'm with you! I can't wait to keep you all posted on my forays into Shakespeare, musicals, ballet, new plays, the Portrait Gallery, the Renaissance wing of the National Gallery...

Off to Internship Orientation class in a bit!

Have a wonderful day,

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