Friday, February 19, 2010

"Enjoy the show"

When you go to the theater these days it is common to hear a recorded announcement that asks you to shut off all electronic devices and to refrain from photography and that concludes with the words "enjoy the show." I found myself thinking about the word "enjoy" in this context as I listened to still another of these announcements the other day. Somehow, given so much of the theater we have been seeing lately, the word "enjoy" didn't quite capture what we have been experiencing.

Now, don't get me wrong, enjoyment is an almost necessary outcome of any theater going experience, but since I also think it is often so much more than that, it feels inadequate, an only partial description of what we expect from theater. We do expect to be entertained, to be diverted, to allow time to pass in a pleasant manner, which is largely what I take enjoy to mean. But we, or certainly I, often want something more. I want to be educated, enlightened, even transformed, at least occasionally. I want to see things I don't necessarily get an opportunity to see in my everyday life, and even more, I want to witness conversations that transport me beyond the everyday, to a different place or time, to mingle with people I don't often get to meet, and to be a part of exchanges that are new to me, but also help me see my own life in a new light. I want a lot, it's true, but what continues to amaze me is how often I actually experience the things I say I want, how often theater seems to change my outlook on the world.

If all that can be covered under the verb "enjoy," so be it. As it turns out, in at least one dictionary I consulted, "enjoy" means not only to experience pleasure, but also to derive some benefit, which is closer to what I have in mind. Still, since enjoy may not be as comprehensive as the theater experience actually allows, I want to amend that recording, to come up with a parting remark that shows deeper respect for what theater actually does for it and what we do for it.

So here it is: "Savor the show!"

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