On Friday afternoon, I drove to Dundalk to see MAD Youth Theatre perform my teen play ‘Midnight in the Theatre of Blood’.
I was so glad I went. The play was done brilliantly and the actors, directing and staging were all excellent.
I found the whole experience of going to see the play very uplifting. Coming away from the theatre, having met and chatted with everyone who would talk to me, I was as happy as I have been in quite a long time. On the pretty-long drive home, I had some time to think about that. What was it that had made me so happy? What aspect in particular?
From the outside, looking in, that may seem like a rather obvious question. I’d written a play. A wonderful young theatre group had taken it on and won their audience over with their show. What was there not to be happy about?
All that is true, of course, and if the drive hadn’t been so long, I would have settled for that answer too. But it was long and so I tunneled a little deeper. “What exactly was it that made me feel so good about my evening?”
Perhaps it was ego. For a few hours, I got to play at being the writer in front of people. I don’t think that’s it. My modus operandi at these type of things is to hide, speak when I’m spoken-to, and keep my head as far down as possible. So it was on Friday evening, where I found a quiet corner in the foyer and watched the people come and collect their tickets and chat. I had no desire that anybody should knew my involvement with the play but I did enjoy the comings and goings. Therein, perhaps, lies a clue.
Perhaps then, it was artistic satisfaction. Some kind of creative fulfillment. Seeing the quiet, occasionally-lonely work of writing a play come to real life fruition. Yes, perhaps there was a bit of that.
In the auditorium itself, I was allowed to sit where I wanted and so I did what I love to do, I sat near the back where I could watch the play and the audience as well. I loved the audience reaction to the play. I particularly loved the honest disbelief of the teen audience members who almost couldn’t believe how far the actors – their peers – would extend themselves for the sake of the show. That was the biggest clue to my happiness.
I finally decided that the biggest joy and satisfaction, for me, lay in the cast of the play and the joy and satisfaction they derived from doing it. That’s what made me so happy, seeing them so happy.
It’s a bit like if I invented a new board game and then I got to see people playing it and laughing and arguing and getting frustrated but basically enjoying themselves with it. It’s like I dreamed up a new sport and I got to watch people get sweaty and muddy and play it hard and win at it.
In short, it just felt like I had played a part in enabling something good. After all, writers like me, we don’t rock the world with our little plays. We don’t ever hit Broadway or the West End. We don’t get movie tie-ins.
And the actors who put on the plays? They won't generally do ‘Big Time’ either (though one or two might). Mostly, they will play to our families and their friends (and their friends' friends) and to those strange people who tend to come in off the street whenever there is a show on. They will rock them hard, though, and they move them. They will make them laugh and they will make them shake their heads in almost-disbelief at how audacious and fearless they are and, if they’re really really lucky, they may put a little tear in their eye.
They move people but mostly, at the end of the day, they move themselves. They take something on and, regardless of how hard and terrifying it seems, they see it through to the bitter end. Sometimes, along the way , it may have seemed too hard and not-worth-it and almost boring, if truth be told. But, in the end, it all worked out great. The audience came along and listened and smiled and shed a tear and then they whooped and cheered too and we could tell that they meant it all because you can’t fake that kind of shit. Not in there. Not in that room with the stage and the seats and the darkness.
So thanks to MAD Theatre Group, Dundalk. To Kwasie Boyce and to all the guys and gals. You made me happy because you made yourselves happy.
That, I believe, is what did it, in the end.