I went to see one of my favorite plays this past weekend – David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross”. There’s a speed and density in Mamet’s dialogue that I love. It’s like there’s not enough time to get out everything he has to say and he’ll be damned if he’ll dumb it down just to wait for some stragglers. The crowd responded oddly at some points - laughs in some deeply intense moments. I think the play has been parodied so many times that some people have a hard time not hearing certain memorable lines as comedy - instead of the drama that they actually are.
Where was I? Oh yeah, focus.
There was one audience member in particular that kept drawing my attention. She walked in late and took an open seat in the front row, just right of center. Immediately she began - loud laughing, wildly removing a coat in the middle of a profound bit of dialogue, talking to nearby audience members, strange stretching motions, even responding to lines from the actors. Everyone was visibly bothered – even the cast. It was hard not to ponder the situation at hand…
I’ve had my share of experiences with a less than attentive audience member. It’s can be so difficult to stay the course and not let their distractions become yours. It’s common practice to expect the performer(s) to muster through. But this particular moment reminded me how one person can really alter an experience - not just for themselves but for every person present.
In our increasingly over connected society, we paradoxically seem to be more disconnected to the world that is actually around us. Our devotion to the bubble we are all building around ourselves oozes out in ways we might not even imagine. We don’t care about the scene we’re creating because we live in a world in which that scene is the only thing that matters.
I looked back to her in the front row and realized she was intently watching the performance.
Then I snapped back to the present. A few scenes had passed during my silent drifting, Was that her fault or mine? I remembered a quote I read once…
“I've always been more comfortable sinking while clutching a good theory than swimming with an ugly fact.” I found myself trying to recall who said that.