I believe that most readers are the same people who like to go to movies, plays, theatre in the park and the like. Buying books is by far the least expensive of these pastimes. However, I’m one who, despite the cost, likes to make a night of it and head out for dinner and the theatre. I’ve even indulged myself this past year in ballet, something with which I’ve had only a nodding acquaintance. When I look back at the cost of it, I’m torn because that could have been another 4 days and an extra show in NYC.
Something I’ve blundered into recently is Cineplex’s Front Row Center. They take amazing plays, ballets, and operas being performed live and satellite broadcast them around the world to select theatres . . . at way less the cost. For instance, the play War Horse (based on the book War Horse by Michael Morpurgo) was being presented at Canada’s National Art Center and the cheapest ticket was $135.00. To me, that was a bit too much for 1 ticket, plus, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the horse puppets. I had seen the movie and loved it (although I cried at the end) and I wasn’t sure how that would translate to a play with puppet horses. You understand, I knew they weren’t going to be hand puppets or string puppets but still . . .
While I was Googling around the Internet, I discovered that there was going to be a satellite broadcast live from London, England of War Horse by the National Theatre and the tickets were $23.00. Wow! I thought. I could afford to take someone with me for that price. So despite the reservations about the puppet thing, I bought two tickets, went to dinner with a friend, then off we went to the movie theatre to see a play. I didn’t quite know what to expect although I had seen Caesar and Cleopatra from Canada’s Stratford Festival and had enjoyed it thoroughly.
The theatre was about half full and there was definitely excitement in the air as people waited for the event to begin. You could see the theatre filling up in London on screen. There were a few short promos about other Front Row Center events coming up, including a live Royal Winnipeg Ballet presentation of Le Moulin Rouge which I thought was something I’d like to see. Then the production began, introduced by someone in England, and men came onstage with a puppet of a colt. At first it looked strange, a man working the head, one working the legs and one at the tail but within minutes, these puppeteers became all but invisible. I was caught up in the story, amazed at the life-like qualities of the metal and leather horse, the way the scenes were created from almost nothing . . . a few long staffs created a corral, a road, the plank to a ship . . . and the ever-changing backdrop across the sky that represented the drawings from the sketchbook of Captain Nicholls. When the colt changed in a burst of light to a full-fledged horse, a collective gasp rose from the audience. (I don’t know how they did that but it was amazing!)
There was an intermission followed by a live interview on stage with one of the co-producers of the play and the author of the book. It was extremely interesting and was followed by a short film about how the puppets evolved to meet the needs of the drama. Then, we were returned, live, to the London stage for the final act of the play. There was a buzz of excitement as people left the theatre. I couldn’t help but wonder why the theatre wasn’t full.
I ended up attending the presentation of Le Moulin Rouge as well as King Lear (again from London) and Romeo and Juliet starring Orlando Bloom direct from Broadway. Romeo and Juliet had 5 people in the audience including myself. These events are of the highest caliber and so inexpensive but I’m afraid they will be discontinued of the don’t create more of a draw. Still, I don’t see them advertised except at the beginning of one of the broadcasts and I have to search them out online. Cineplex should certainly be promoting better but let’s get word of mouth going and fill the theatres for these events. How about you? Have you been to one? Was the theatre full? Did you think it was top theatre at a bargain? What have you seen? Would you go again?
The next live broadcast (with 2 re-broadcasts) is going to be Driving Miss Daisy with Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones at the beginning of June which should be incredible. See you there?