Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Your special-memory plays

In the New York Times, Patrick Healy reviews The Play That Changed My Life (ed. Ben Hodges, Applause, $19), with playwrights recalling ... well, the title kinda says it.

So what are your special-memory plays? Do write in with your witty reminiscences.

OK, I'll go. The Music Man and Damn Yankees, because I saw them in Anaheim when I was 10 and couldn't believe that real live actors could strut across a (circular) stage so colorfully — and lie and flirt and be naughty, all while I was seated right next to my parents.

Romeo and Juliet, because I took a lot of crap from other jocks for liking it when I was 14, and because I had a crush on my English teacher (so I imagined her sort of being like Juliet when she's all standoffish at the Capulets' ball), and because I had no idea what they were talking about, but I could tell it had to do with a teenage girl really, really liking a boy, and I wanted some girl (frankly, any girl -- I was hormonal and rather desperate) to really, really like me.

[See also this brilliant idea for a play, in which the Nature Theater of Oklahoma asks people for their (partial, completely wrong) memories of R&J and then turned them into a play.
We could totally imitate them: Everybody's forced to read Julius Caesar, or Hamlet, or A Midsummer Night's Dream. Anybody want to join my interview squad? We pick a play or musical, then tape the responses, then put on a show. C'mon, kids, get out your tape recorders...]

The plays of Christopher Durang, especially Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You and The Marriage of Bette and Boo, because clearly he and I shared the guilty Catholic schoolboy thing, and because he blended touching sentiment with rage against these mediocrities that we settle for.

And Tom Stoppard, because in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and The Real Inspector Hound, he took literary monuments and twisted them inside-out in ways that taught me more about them while still making me giggle with surprise.

OK, so again: Your memories of stand-out plays?

[ photo: Paula Vogel, who teaches playwriting at Yale, wrote the introduction for this book, mentors young playwrights, and has written a few plays herself; from broadwayworld.com ]


  1. Ironically, my special memory play is The Fantasticks, which I love to this day.

    Hey, you asked!

  2. The play that changed my life was The Diviners at Interplayers when I was about 12. I believe Michael Weaver was in it and/or directed it. I had grown up around theatre, but was only aware of acting at that point. That was the first show where I really recognized the importance of lights and sound as technical elements that were every bit as critical as performing. It changed my focus from only wanting to act to wanting to be involved with a show in any aspect, and seeing the value of every single person helping to create a show.

    And I would love to be involved with the Misremembered Theatre project. My elementary-school best friend and I spent many hours performing "Shakespeare" on his front porch to unsuspecting passers-by. Sadly, we hadn't really seen or read much actual Shakespeare, but we pieced together a little bit of all of them as we understood them and created some mish-mash of a performance. Lots of fun. Great scene between Lady Macbeth and Malvolio, if I recall correctly.

  3. The many musicals I saw for the first time with my mom under the Music Circus tent over several summers back in the 50's in Sacramento. Three stand out in my mind: OKLAHOMA. The most rousing rendition of the title song ever...they got two encores! And the role of Ado Annie...just about everything that can be learned about connecting with an audience could be learned from Elena Verdugo's performance. I fell in love with Annie and it was a big thrill when I got to play her in college. GYPSY. Seen for the first time at a young age, this show made me think more seriously about what makes characters tick. WEST SIDE STORY. My favorite musical, now and forever. End of story.