No Spoilers

The best moment of my Sunday theater outing, in a way, was the moment it became apparent that at least some of the audience hadn’t been exposed to spoilers.

Every year the Shakespeare Theater Company of Washington — which doesn’t limit itself to Shakespeare; this season they’re doing Wilde’s Salome and The Real Inspector Hound — runs a “Free For All.” People can get into a first come first serve line, or enter an online lottery, and get two free tickets to a reprise of one of the last season’s productions. Back when the Engineer and I were really scraping pennies — and trying to mentor a couple of wayward young people, for all the good it did — we scored just about every summer. Perseverance furthers.

You see a lot of students and relative theater virgins at these things. I remember, in the old outdoor venue they used to use, seeing handbills that gently outlined the basic etiquette of attending a live performance.

Sunday night, we were lost in the woods outside Athens — the fairies from Titania’s train were all played by lively acrobats, accompanied by a nice selection of music — and Robin Goodfellow had just been sent off by Oberon to get the magic flower-juice that makes people fall in love. (Shakespeare would have probably seen beer goggles at work often enough in the Mermaid Tavern, I mused.) Titania was asleep in a grand piano suspended from the flies — don’t worry, it worked — and as the Puck led in Bottom, caparisoned in the specially groteque and cartoonish ass’s head that had frightened away his companions in the previous scene, I heard a scatter of four or five little gasps and squeals from around the house. There was one muffled, giggling “Oh NO!” as someone who actually didn’t know the story realized what was about to happen.

I hope they all remained as delighted at finding out what happened after that, and after that.

5 thoughts on “No Spoilers

  1. As much as it horrifies me to think that there are people who don’t know the story of The Dream, it charms me in equal measure to think that at least one of those people discovered it during a live performance.

    I had a somewhat similar experience last year, taking a friend, who wasn’t all that familiar with classical music, to a period-orchestra performance of “The Four Seasons.” The post-performance comment, delivered with a kind of indignant astonishment: “How long have you known that things like this are possible?!”

    • I grew up surrounded by fantastic music, but subject to the bland, overboiled menus of a midcentury American upbringing, so my moment like that involved the discovery that food could actually have aromas and flavors and a texture other than that of braised foam rubber. I’ve been trying to re-create that moment for other innocents ever since.

  2. Have I already told you that I spent a summer studying literature with Georgian princess? That sounds grander than it actually was, but, in fact, it’s fairly grand to sit around under shady trees in Vermont and talk about books, right? Anyway, this Georgian princess had read everything; I had, in a word, not. She was constantly asking, in passing, have you read this, have you read that? No. No. Uhh, no. She never registered any disappointment or disapproval. Her reaction was always the same: “Oh, what pleasure awaits you!” I thought: I want to be like that.

    • That’s what they do in Paradise, isn’t it, sit under trees and talk about books? (The heck with the 72 virgins, I already had those.)

      People who condescend because someone hasn’t yet read or heard or done something probably don’t understand enjoyment, other than the enjoyment of scoring points.

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