I can’t remember the last time I saw a show on my own. I used to see shows alone all the time. When I saw shows all the time. Sadly I’ve lapsed in my show viewing habits, because of, you know, money. Actually, it’s more a lack of time. I haven’t made it a priority, so it hasn’t happened. But last night, I finally, finally saw a show.
Not just any show. A show from one of my comedic heroes. It was a comedy show, I guess you would say, but it wasn’t stand up. It was a one man show. And highly comedic. It lived in the land between stand up and a play.
Traditionally, people see shows with other people. In an audience, you are surrounded by people who are there together. And at a comedy show, where everyone is laughing, they laugh with each other. They get the jokes together.
I had forgotten the exhilaration, and freedom, and sort of loneliness that can accompany seeing a show by yourself. It’s at once liberating to be there alone; no one you know gets to judge you on what you laugh at. So yeah for that. But it’s also terribly lonely, at times. When you arrive, and get your seat. When other people arrive next to you, in a pairing, and ask if the seats next to you are taken.
It’s more a self imposed loneliness. It’s not real. People aren’t sitting there judging you for being there alone.
When you’re there alone, you laugh at the jokes to yourself. But you are in a crowd, and thus part of the audience identity. You’re not actually laughing alone. (Unless you are actually laughing alone, which is it’s own level of awkwardness.)
So you sit there laughing with everyone around you. You’re alone in this room of people who are together. You’re experiencing joy and laughter with this big group of people; the ultimate bond. But you don’t actually know anyone there.
After the show, when we all went our separate ways, I was left to contemplate the show by myself, while I saw others in big groups digesting the show and bouncing thoughts and responses off of each other.
I started thinking about the theatrical experience. How it brings people together. People who will experience this one fleeting thing that will never happen again. The same show never happens twice. Never the same performances. Never the same group of people. At the end of the two hours, we all go our separate ways and continue living our lives. A show binds us, and then we split forever.
I guess that’s part of the audience contract. We agree to sit in this dark space for an hour and a half to two hours, experience something together, and then leave. Hopefully being changed, or having witnessed something extraordinary. Most people leave with someone whom they can share that experience with forever. But when you go alone, it is your little secret. That experience that you had that night, sitting in the dark room by yourself.
Everyone else you know is outside of that night’s bubble. You can share it with your friends, but they weren’t actually there. So it’s yours.
And I felt so free. I felt like the world was mine. Like I could laugh at anything, judgement free. It was complete liberation.