Take a Seat
September 28, 2023: Recently I saw (and reviewed on this site) Audible Theater’s Swing State by Rebecca Gilman. After writing my review, I was surprised to learn that during the first scene one character had made a gesture indicating she was contemplating killing herself with a knife. I had certainly seen no such gesture.
Was I sleeping? Was I not paying attention? Why on earth hadn’t I seen what others had? I was truly troubled until I figured out what had happened. I had simply been sitting behind a rather tall man who partially obscured my view. I had to keep moving my head from side to side to follow the movements of the actors. Most probably I had missed the suicidal gesture because I hadn’t been quick enough to catch it.
As a reviewer, I have to admit I generally get pretty good seats. But even the best seat becomes not so great a seat when you’re sitting behind a person who (through no fault of their own) blocks your view.
There’s not much people in the audience can do about this. Although we should be considerate and not choose a beehive hairstyle when we’re going to the theater or insist on wearing our favorite hat. But directors can make a difference.
Subtle gestures work wonders in the movies or on television. They’re often lost in the theater. If directors sat in the back row during rehearsals, they would undoubtedly notice this unfortunate fact. (They might also notice that if actors don’t articulate, even a mic can’t make their words intelligible.)
Sometimes it seems directors think of everything but the people who buy tickets so they can enjoy the show. But ultimately, they are the most important people in the house. If it weren’t for them, the actors would be talking to the walls.