Last weekend, I went to see Born Yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought the timing of it was perfect as it deals with issues that continue to be relevant today. It's a theme I wrote about this past week in my column.
On a slightly different theme, it got me thinking about comparisons that we make between things which we've seen. It will surprise no one reading this that I prefer live performances to movies. Watching Born Yesterday this weekend and Caberet the weekend before that reinforced one of the reasons I have that preference.
Theater invites us to believe that there is more than one right way of doing things. Every time we go to see a stage production of any show, it will be different from the time we saw it before, whereas every time we see the same movie, it will be the same.
One of the challenges that modern live theater has is that whenever they produce a show that has been made into a movie, the performers are going to be compared to their silver screen counterparts. Indeed, for many people, the movie becomes the standard to which the live performance is compared. I've many times heard a person say they didn't like an actor's performance and when you engage them on the reason why, it is because they weren't like the person who created that role for a movie version.
Is it that the movie performer is automatically better? Or is it simply that the movie version can be returned to repeatedly and it is always the same?
One of the appeals that theater holds for me is that it is different every time. I've seen many productions of Macbeth and I always look forward to another opportunity to see it because I know it will be done differently than the other times I've seen it. There is no one right way that Macbeth must be portrayed, or Lady Macbeth, or any of the other characters. It depends on the vision of the show, what theme the director wants to explore, and how the individual actor is choosing to create the character.
I believe that live theater by its nature invites us to be more open-minded and to accept and embrace diversity. Not all audience members accept the invitation, but it is there nonetheless. It is difficult for static electronic media to issue the same invitation.