15 November 2012

Be Reverent!

A few days ago I helped chaperone a group of students to a modern dance concert performed by a local company.  The majority of the audience was made up of elementary students.  Small children in any kind of dance concert can be kind of interesting, especially if the concert is too long or there are boys dancing, but this concert was actually decently well structured for a younger crowd and they seemed to be enjoying themselves.  There were a few dances that were particularly silly and got the giggles going.  It was adorable.

Only then I heard it.  "Shhhh!!"

Students were complaining about it on the way home as well.  "I wish those kids hadn't been laughing. That was so disrespectful!"

"Why?" I asked.

"Because it's rude to laugh."

". . . it was funny."

"It was?"

The same thing happened to me several years ago at a BYU production of (I think) Two Gentlemen of Verona.    Something happened (probably a crude joke) and I laughed.

It was like I'd laughed in the middle of a wedding.  "SHH!"  Heads flipped in my direction and I was suddenly some kind of outcast.

"It was funny." I wanted to say.  "Just because you didn't get the gag, doesn't mean I can't laugh about it!"

I feel like people in my neck of the woods need a lesson on how to behave in the theater.  Growing up it was around hicks coming to the city in their ripped jeans and Budweiser t-shirts.  Here it's that theater is this "religious" experience, and in our religious vocabulary, that means we have to sit down and shut up and be sacred.

I don't like that.  I don't think reverence is exclusively linked with silence.  I think it's reverent and honorable to laugh when things are funny.  To sing with vigor.  (So help me I wish we had something more like a Southern Baptist gospel choir . . . )

There's a time and a place for respectful silence.  But I wish these kids hadn't been shut down and yelled at for thinking things were funny when they were, and the world would be a better place if people didn't treat the Bard like the Bible, and I think it would be awesome of people didn't treat the Bible with kid gloves.  We can treat sacred things sacredly without anesthetizing emotional response.

(Or forcing it, I suppose.  I don't understand the "I'm going to go to this movie and I'M GOING TO CRY SO HARD!!!" enthusiasm either.)

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