I might have said it before, and I'm sure I'll say it again - We are living in an increasingly isolated society. With all the lightning speed advances in technology, we're used to having everything at our fingertips. And adding to whatever amount of ADD we all have, we can have several things at our fingertips at once - chat on Facebook, "Tweet", watch a favorite TV show, play a game, share videos on YouTube, send an email, do work, download new music, the list goes on and on. We may be more easily "connected," but everything we do involves a screen in front of our face - whether it's a large computer at a desk, or a mobile version. I think we're starting to forget what it feels like to be an actual living part of something - live, in real flesh & blood. No screens involved!
I consider myself a fairly tech-savy person. I can pick most of it up pretty quickly, despite being part of the generation that did not grow up with a cell phone attached to our hip. If we had a computer at all, it was only for the occasional word processing. (Final school papers were still being hand printed!) And I still think that many of these technological advances are, for the most part, pretty cool. They allow me to do a job I love and to still feel like I have some clue as to what's going on in my friends' lives despite now living many miles away. But I'm an "Arts" person at heart. Nothing can beat a good story on the page, a beautiful painting, an awe-inspiring dance, a tranquil sunset, or a live action stage show. And yet, even I seem to be forgetting what it's like to see things "live and in living color."
A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of seeing two Broadway shows for the first time in a long time. The first was Newsies, actually on Broadway. I have a lot of memories that swirl around that show so I was ready for my day of nostalgia. Plus, I have not been to NYC in years, so I was super excited to hop a train and head down to meet one of my oldest friends. Being a writer, I've always enjoyed people watching, but this day seemed even more amusing than usual. The day flew by much too quickly and I was back home so fast that the whole thing almost felt like a dream.
Luckily, the following weekend I was privileged to see the touring production of Memphis at Proctor's Theater. Obviously, this didn't involve a whole big day trip, and I knew basically nothing about the show so I had no expectations attached to it, but the excitement was still in the air. There was a buzz all around me and I could feel it down to my fingertips.
We had incredible seats for both shows. Only a couple of rows back, we were close enough to see the spit flying out of the actors' mouths. The singing, dancing, and acting were fantastic. Sometimes being involved in theater myself kind of takes away from the magic of a performance because I know the stage tricks, and what it's like to be onstage in a production. But this time, I was completely swept up in the story. I felt like I was part of the world. The colors were vibrant all around me. I could feel the rhythms of the music and dancing in my soul. The scent of the makeup mingled with the old lady perfume and drifted up my nose. The smoke on the stage enveloped me. I could feel the spit. It was breathtaking. I couldn't get the stupid grin off my face. My eyes were glued open like a toddler seeing bubbles for the first time - that innocent wonder when everything around you is magical.
And then it hit me.
This is actual real life - live and in living color. No touch screen to manipulate and zoom in. No volume control. No options to click over to something else. No doing 50 things at once. For 2 1/2 hours, I got to sit and concentrate on one thing. One thing that activated all my senses. I could hear audience reactions during the show - gasps of surprise, laughter, tapping feet, applause, cheers. It was a community banded together. My friend that went with me to Memphis had never sat so close before, so I delighted in watching her reactions and realization of how different it is to sit up front. I could actually talk to the lead actor after the show. I could reach out and touch him and feel actual flesh as I congratulated him on a spectacular performance. I didn't have to just post a message on a stranger's "wall." There was a human, face-to-face exchange and it made me feel 16 again.
Two full days of human contact, and it was glorious! I had a complete "high" after I left the theater that was almost as good as the high you get from actually being in a show. I don't know about you, but I've never had a high after using the computer.
I've always loved the theater. I will be the first person to tell you that nothing compares to a live show. But even I forgot to some degree just how amazing the whole experience is. I've known for a while now how isolating technology can be, but this mini Broadway adventure proved to me even more than I expected just how bad it has become. When that isolation sneaks up even on a person like me who thrives on these "live" experiences, I can't imagine how detached other people are. We need to make a point every now and then to turn off the electronics and go out and experience the real world. Live and in living color. HD just can't even begin to compare!