I was 12 when I saw my first Broadway play.
It was Tina’s 12th birthday and her gift was a night of theater, and I was luckily Tina’s plus one (we actually were three, including Tina’s mother.) I remember that night vividly. It was a special occasion so I dressed accordingly. I wore a long, plaid, pleated skirt and a white, satin puffed-sleeve shirt and my fancy shoes. We boarded an express bus from our Brooklyn neighborhood into Manhattan to the Great White Way. The play that we were going to see was “Raisin,” a musical adaption of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun,” which was the story about an African-American family in the 50s in Chicago and their struggles.
We had great seats in the orchestra section. Our seats were so close to the stage, I remember seeing the sweat come off some of the actors.
The whole experience was
Yehuda also was 12 when he saw his first Broadway play.
Jeff, Shaina, and I were taking Yehuda out for his birthday. We headed into Times Square with the ruse that we were going to Dave & Buster’s (not a place of choice for Yehuda). While pretending to walk to the arcade, we crossed the street and headed towards the Foxwoods Theatre.
We were going to see one of the most spectacular, one of the most expensively produced and technically complex shows ever on Broadway, “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.” It was a perfect gift for Yehuda, who was a major Spidey fan. The play, with its many sequences of characters flying and engaging in aerial combat, had an additional thrill factor. When the actors landed in the audience, they did so right next to Yehuda’s seat.
After the show, in true fan form, we waited at the backstage door for the actors to leave the theater. One by one, out they came, makeup wiped off and clad in their jeans and street clothes to greet the anxious aficionados who stood patiently for their autographs and to pose for pictures. There was the actress who played Mary Jane Watson, and others. But the biggest kick was seeing Peter Parker/Spider-Man played by actor, Reeve Carney. He even wished Yehuda a happy birthday.
The entire encounter will never fade from memory.
There have been other Broadway theater excursions, as well as other off-Broadway experiences.
There was “Cinderella” with Shaina. (I bawled when hearing decades after my childhood, the Rogers and Hammerstein score.) There was “Peter and the Starcatcher.” There was “Pippin.” And recently, there was “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Academics and social scientists say that seeing live theater may be particularly beneficial for youngsters. It promotes tolerance, increases attention span and deepens their knowledge. They also say that it teaches them to recognize the emotions of others. Theater works best when actors can convey what they are thinking and feeling to an audience. The intensity of that experience may provide the audience with practice in reading the nuance of emotions, a skill that is being blurred by social media and its one-dimensionality.
That’s all good and well.
But what’s even better is when I hear Shaina humming “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” or Yehuda telling how he understood a particular scene days after we’ve left the darkened theater. When I see how the theater experience has touched them, it’s then that I want to go back to the box office.