I discovered the magical space of theaters during my high school years in the late 1970s. This was before the online world created the magic box of computers to get lost in.
The experience of entering this magical space starts on the outside of the building. The architecture, whether old, like the many baroque or renaissance buildings in Europe, or new like the concert hall in Reykjavik, Iceland, or Sydney Australia, stands out from the everyday context. Entering a place that is larger, brighter and more elaborate than any other building in town, except for churches, already offers a different perspective. It's like a glass of champagne for the senses. Even in my most casual everyday clothes I always feel dressed up and part of something special.
The plushy seats, the personally handed programs, the thoughtful attention to every detail feels like flying first class without the economic strain. Suddenly neither time, worries, titles, haves and have nots, bad dinners, a broken heart or an aching toe vanish in the dark and the softness of the deep red velvet seats.
I never regretted seeing any show, even the worst performance act made the overall experience worth every minute of it. The sense of being transported into another zone that inspires all senses without the potential guilt and restraints of a church service always made me hungry for more.
Even historically, an evening at the theater was as much about the social life between acts as about the event that happened on stage. A "Totalkunstwerk" at its best.
There was a short time when I got pulled into the magic of the box of my computer. So easily done, especially in a place where 6 months of winter make going outside anything but inviting. A warm couch, a cup of tea, the family huddle around the laptop and the limitless access to movies, documentaries, and anything else that fits into digital, created an irresistible pull. BUT - something was missing. The feeling of fatigue and "flat brain" thinking after an hour or so of gorging on online digital art and media left me wondering.
Wondering no more- the kinesthetic experience, the heightened architecture, the lights, the excitement of the crowd, the carefully printed and personally handed programs, the buzz in the lobby during intermission - you just cant recreate that in your living room or at the kitchen table.
Rubbing shoulders with people you might only have one thing in common with can be scary. That makes the evenings at the theater so good and so important. The one common denominator the audience shares is the sense of curiosity, community and creative adventure. The scary yet important act of leaning into the new and unexpected. It is in deed just like stepping on an airplane. You never know what's going to happen and how the experience of travel will have changed you but you know it will be worth it. The best, everybody entering the theater travels first class.