On being … open

By Ingrid Sapona

A nearby theatre company does “Secret Theatre” events. The other day they sent out an email announcing the tickets for the first Secret Theatre of the year. To get tickets you phone the box office. I’ve tried in the past, but by the time I got through, the tickets were gone.

The other day I was successful and I nabbed a pair. A day or so later, I got an email from the box office with a bit more information. Basically, they told us where we’d meet, that it was rain or shine, and that it would last about 45 minutes. That was it – no other details.

After ordering the tickets, I phoned a friend to see if she’d like to join me. I told her the little I knew about it, but that it sounded fun. She agreed and so we had a date. Since it was my idea, I offered to drive and said I’d figure out where we might have dinner before the play.

In choosing the restaurant, I wanted to find a place I thought my friend might like. I did my homework – checking out their menus on-line to see both what they offered and the price range.  Because the place I chose didn’t take reservations, just in case we couldn’t get in to my top choice, I had a fallback picked out too,

Driving to the event, we talked about what to expect. Since I knew nothing more than what I had told her earlier, my only comment was that I figured it’d be like a Fringe Festival play, but with higher quality acting.

After dinner, we headed to the Surprise Theatre designated meeting place. At the appointed time, they led us (a crowd of about 60) on a brief walk to where the performance would be. The gentleman who welcomed us told us that during the production we’d have four short walks that the cast would lead us on. He also casually mentioned that he was especially pleased that they managed to stage this particular play on this particular weekend. From that, I think we all guessed the play was going to have a Mother’s Day theme.

Then, without further ado, the play began, right where we were standing. Out marched five actresses all dressed in black, with one of them sporting a distinct baby bump. The first “scene”, if I can call it that, was a monologue by the pregnant-looking one about what the baby feels like inside her. As she went on, I was overcome with contrasting emotions. On the one hand, the speech was very powerful and interesting; on the other hand, I worried about how my friend might take it. Neither of us has kids, so it’s not like we could personally relate to what the actress was saying.

I was very concerned with whether it was making my friend uncomfortable. I kept thinking, “Oh please, don’t let this end in a screaming birth scene”. It didn’t. The monologue gently described a few contractions and then crescendoed with the actress fondling an imaginary baby.

They asked us not to tell people too much about the play itself, as they might replay it at a future Secret Theatre. So, I won’t describe it more than to say it focused on the trials and tribulations of being a mother.

Since seeing it, I’ve been unable to get the play out of my head. It was a rare combination of sweet, yet poignant. It was well written and cleverly staged. I’ve also been thinking about how long it’s been since I saw or read something that surprised and delighted me. For sure, part of the reason I enjoyed it so much had to do with the quality of the writing and acting. But it wasn’t just that. It also had to do with the fact that I went in with virtually no expectations and I was open to the experience.

If you think about it, it’s pretty rare that we go into a show or even a restaurant without knowing something about it. With movies, we see trailers and read reviews. With restaurants, we can look at their menus on-line and read diners’ comments. With plays, we usually at least know who the playwright is, if not something about the play itself. Heck, even in Fringe Festival productions there’s a line or two description (often quite misleading, mind you) meant to entice people to attend. What I think we fail to think about is the down side of having all this information: that it often builds expectations – some reasonable, some unrealistic.

The Secret Theatre outing has reminded me of the unexpected joy that can come by experiencing something with an open mind, free of expectation and pre-conceived ideas. What about you? Do you find yourself truly open to things? I hope so. If not, maybe you should give it a try… 

©2018 Ingrid Sapona


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