Being Around Theater People

Back in college, when I wrote a humor column for the Ball State Daily News, I ran one describing the antics of theater students at one of the cafeterias. They would commune at two different tables, dressed oddly colorful, dabbling in hipster chic, and it wasn't just their clothing that stood out.

(Online, I was chastised for saying such things, by none other than theater majors, and even their comments were dramatic. One stated that I had "crucified" them.)

Watching theater majors at those tables was theater in itself. I believe they wanted this -- in my times spent with theater majors (my roommate my junior year was one, so I have come across a few -- one even stated that musicals were the only thing he listened to), being noticed must be an objective of their soul.

You will notice me. Jazz hands, toe touch, ball change, clap.

During lunch, the men and women at those tables would shoot laughter out like canons, talk loud with their comments and make ambitious hand gestures while telling stories. They would break out into song, quietly at first, and then louder so tables around them could hear.

They were one step up away from standing on the tables, singing to us if we can hear the people sing, singing the songs of angry men!

Forced audience members could be seen sneering and throwing furrowed brows in the theater majors direction, debating whether or not to throw a molotov cocktail.

I was revisited by these memories last night.

While attending a student theater production, I was, once again, surrounded by theater people. Not people who enjoy going to the theater -- people like us sit quietly, waiting for the performance to start. We converse with our neighbors, but keep our hands to ourselves like our first grade teacher told us and avoid standing.

I realize that theater people, not in the performance, still perform. Tonight, their role is "a spirited member of the audience."

They enter the theater and immediately find people they know. They leap toward the sitting acquaintances and then explode with fervent hugs. Last night, it was like watching the end of a Lifetime Original Movie when the kidnapped person is rescued. Then, after all the grasping is done, the theater major and acquaintance stand and talk inches apart. Their faces are right up against each other, noses barely touching.

This baffles me because I am constantly aware of people's breath.

Then, they squeeze into the seats and grasp at another friend sitting down. Theater people are always grasping: for attention, for friends, for roles in a production.

While this performance was going on around us, uncomfortably audible warm-ups were happening from the singers on stage.

"Mi, mi, mi, mi, mi, mi, mi, mi, meeeeeeeeeee."

And then they would do weird stretches, and I even saw one cast member doing some yoga moves. She went from downward dog, into plank, went down into cobra and then pushed up to upward dog. I did not know that various asanas helped a performance.

One of the male actors, his backside facing us, spread his legs apart, sticking his butt into the air. He was wearing thin pants. I had to look away.

The actors came and went, a rotation of awkward happening.

At this point, I covered my face with my program and started laughing. It was too much. How could people stand being around this all...the...time? It's exhausting.

This does not happen when I go downtown Indianapolis to see a traveling Broadway show, nor does it happen in Chicago. We sit, await the show, and the stage is dark. The professionals don't wander around stage like zombies with dry mouths open, emitting warm-up vocals to the key of "Sound of Music."

Even the man who voiced about not filming, shooting photos and making sure our phones were off gave a performance. He was serious, like he was offering up a verdict from a jury.

It was all just so affected.