Yesterday I saw a community theater performance of "The Drowsy Chaperone." I don't normally go to theater, but I knew someone in the cast. I had a great time. It was a fine show, and I'd plug it… except that it was the last performance.
I last went to the theater in 2007. I went to Manhattan to meet with a couple of Ren-Faire friends who were visiting from Nevada, and we had a Broadway double-header: Wicked and Spamalot. I'd seen Wicked with them two years before; I enjoyed it, but it seemed a bit weaker than the first time I saw it.
As for Spamalot, I never had a funnier time at a theatrical experience. Like any geekish Monty Python fan, I can recite most of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" by heart. That did not prepare me for Spamalot; it's as if Eric Idle knew exactly the kind of person likely to see this show and wrote it for them. I was laughing almost continuously throughout the show.
Well, not exactly laugh. When I really start enjoying myself, I whoop. It's not voluntary. It's loud and distinctive. At work, one of my co-workers made it his business to get me to whoop at least once a day.
Of course, in a theater, everyone around me could hear me whoop as well. I tried to keep it down. I clamped my hand over my mouth. But I needed to breath occasionally. Also, I thought there were moments I could relax: "Oh, that's from the movie. I know this. I won't be laughing at… OH, THAT'S NEW!"
As it happens, I was sitting in seat A101. (For those who've seen Spamalot: no, I wasn't picked.) That's in the front row of the theater, near the center. All the performers could hear me whoop as well. They were professionals, and didn't look at me (though I think the Lady of the Lake glanced at me once). I learned from a performer friend of mine that actors love it when there's a "whooper" in the audience; it gives everyone else permission to laugh. Still, I'm sure it was distracting for them and embarrassing for me.
Let's return to The Drowsy Chaperone. I laughed almost constantly during the show, but I maintained some self-control and didn't whoop. I kept my laughter to myself.
Or so I thought. After the standing ovation, as the audience filed out, the woman who'd sat next me said, "It was great to hear you laugh. You have such a nice laugh."
Next time I go to the theater, I think I'll buy out all the seats around mine. Maybe the other patrons can listen to the show in peace.