Live theater makes me cry. Doesn’t matter what the show is, the second the lights dim, the overture starts and the curtain goes up, I get choked. That all too familiar burn behind the eyes starts and I’m overwhelmed by the sheer power of LIFE infusing every one of us in the audience.
Can’t really say what causes this emotional surge. Maybe it’s the anticipatory energy filling the house, maybe it’s the pre-show vibes emanating from the actors waiting in the wings. Maybe it’s the thought of all the work that goes into a single production, and that these are live people singing, dancing and telling a story right in front of me. Who knows?
I mean, really, who cries when the curtain goes up on Sister Act or La Cage?
This season, the one production I looked forward to the most was War Horse. Perhaps you saw the movie when it came out last year. It’s your typical horse story. Boy meets horse, falls in love with horse, boy and horse are separated, both have an amazing journey during WWI, boy and horse are reunited. Stunning cinematography, decent acting, enjoyable family flick.
But…you haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen this production on stage.
Much like the Broadway production of The Lion King (and yes, the opening strains for Circle of Life get me every time too…live or movie), War Horse depends on puppetry for the main characters, sets and props.
The stage was sparse, consisting of only a single swatch of cream colored banner across the back of the stage where they projected various landscape images. The rest of the time, the actors and chorus provided the set trappings. People holding up poles to make a fence, puppeteers darting in and out with a flock of birds in the sky or a feisty barnyard goose (who took a bow at the curtain call).
The main star of the show was Joey, the horse. Joey is a stunning compilation of cane, fabric and cables that when his handlers do their dance, bring this puppet to life.
Joey, and all the horses in the production, are life-sized puppets that dominate the stage. The puppeteers studied horse behavior and do it so well that after a while you forget there are people there at all. Just take a look at this video as the creators talk at TED about how they went about developing the horses.
It’s in this talk that one of the creators calls it “Emotional engineering”. That phrase struck a chord with me and it’s one I wish I had thought of first. This is storytelling at it’s finest. Writers, painters, musicians…all of us who create are Emotional Engineers, aren’t we? Our words and images evoke emotions on the deepest level (if we’re doing it right!). Think of how much power you hold as an Emotional Engineer. Somewhere, someone is putting down your book and walking away because the emotion YOU created is so very real in their heads they have to take a break and compose themselves. A song has the power to stir memories, good or bad. A painting or sculpture can make you weep, laugh or shake your fist.
This is what turns on the waterworks for me at the start of each play I go see. The anticipation of raw emotion reaches in and pulls hard. I’m open and ready for the story and all it has to give. It’s beautiful, it’s magical, it’s the fine art of storytelling.
It makes me want to go home and dive back into my own stories and makes me wonder how the hell our Packmates are going to get through Legacies when it comes out. Talk about deep emotion, this one is off the charts and we can’t wait for you all to read it.
How about you? What books, plays, movies, songs move you? What is it about them that made them stick in your mind and heart? Did any of them change your life? Let us know in the comments!