Audacious list (5 of 10): The fan who knew too much

The continuing list of issues that negatively affect the creative process of soaps.

I wholeheartedly expect to have a throng of mad, angry people come after me with lit torches and run me out of town, medieval-style, for this item on my list.

But I will say it anyway. Fans (include me) know entirely too damn much about behind-the-scenes happenings. And I contend that it has a negative impact on shows.

About 15 years ago, when I had way more hair, I was a Gen-X slacker who worked in community theater. I worked with two separate theaters.

One was a community theater led by a larger-than-life man, a big, loud, bossy guy named David who was a teddy bear inside. He was Dom DeLuise and Harvey Fierstein combined! I did some acting for him and I’ll admit, I was not a captivating presence on stage; David mockingly nicknamed me “Captain Energy”.

I did some backstage work for him as well, through some very emotional shows (“Falsettos” being one – if you can get through that without bawling, you’re either dead or not human). And I remember one rehearsal where he sat quietly in the first row, talking to some actors who just were not getting it.

And he said: Theater is the art of making us believe. We must block our movements and pay attention to lighting, but don’t overwhelm yourself with worry about those things. Live the words and make us believe. Don’t tell us, SHOW us. Your character is a mystery – unfurl that mystery slowly and beautifully. Take away all of the technical distractions around you and make it happen. Pretend everything around you is a black curtain and you must make everything come alive.  Magical words I have often thought about, because all theater is the art of making us believe.

The second group was a group of more seasoned technical people in a theater with a bigger budget. This theater did cutting-edge work (if there were naked men in a play on stage in this city, it was likely at this theater).

They were good at what they did, and our shows were amazing. And yet, something was off.

As I observed these people at other shows, I realized what had happened: They were unable to leave their roles as directors, stage managers, and crew. They had lost their ability to believe, to enjoy, to ride along with the performance.

It was lost under a mountain of criticism from them. It may not have been their show, but they had notes for actors, lighting and costume directors, and sound technicians in their head.

We see this with filmgoers, with people out to dine… inability to take in the experience without taking it apart as it happens.

Now, this blog and many others wouldn’t exist if we didn’t have these behind-the-scenes things to talk about, so for me to say all this must come across as fairly schizophrenic. I’m not suggesting that we should be kept in a cone of silence . Especially at this stage of the game, when daytime is literally fighting to survive, knowing what decisions TPTB are making, and WHY, is important.

I just wonder if knowing all of this hasn’t made many of us jaded. Listen, I’m not suggesting that the shows are masterpieces right now. Many of the shows are in creative limbo trying to redefine themselves, and all of them have had jaw-droppingly bad story. But I think we as viewers have become very cynical. We tear even the tiniest parts of the show apart for examination and criticism. I think a legitimately good storyline sometimes gets lost in the mix. We’ve become so conditioned for disappointment that I don’t know that some of us are still open to the beauty of a great moment – a romantic kiss, a great plot reveal, a family reunion, a villian taking action.

I am making the effort these days to ignore the artifice, to not worry that I might be able to see the strings Peter Pan flies on, or that the door on stage doesn’t quite close. I am trying to be open, to listen to the words and the actors showing me what is happening in their character’s mind and heart. I am trying, very hard, to BELIEVE.

One thought on “Audacious list (5 of 10): The fan who knew too much

  1. Wow, great post and I couldn’t agree more with what you wrote. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how different my soap viewing experience is these days compared to when I was younger. I just don’t get the same pleasure I once did & I can’t put all the blame on TPTB. Knowing the backstage buzz has absolutely changed me as a soap fan. Now I know who’s contract is up, who just got fired, which show is on the verge of cancellation, and other behind the scenes gossip and while that’s fun to read about it certainly has taken some of the “magic” from my shows.

    Two other things that have affected me as a soap fan (both of which you’ve touched on in your post):

    1) Reading Spoilers: Hardly anything is a surprise anymore which takes most of the fun out of watching my shows. Plus knowing what’s going to happen ahead of time means I’m already making judgements on plot developments that haven’t even happened yet (and might not end up happening at all.)

    2) Reading/Posting on online forums/blogs: I absolutely love the online soap community. I have a blast reading other people’s opinions and posting my own, but there is a negative to it. As soon as I watch an episode I can’t wait to go online to dissect/analyze/criticize every line of dialogue, plot point and hairstyle. Like you said, I’ve become jaded and may be too quick to criticize. I can’t remember the last time I watched a silly and unbelievable story unfold and just enjoyed it for what it was, instead of going online and slamming “TIIC”. Or the last time I wrote about what was good on GH (for example) instead of ranting about what Guza was doing to “my” show…

    So over the last month I’ve tried to change my habits slightly. OLTL is by far my favorite soap right now, so I decided to stop reading spoilers for it, and not fast forward through any of it. And while I do write about it on forums, I make a conscious effort to judge the stories with an open mind. I can honestly say that it’s made a big difference! Now if I can do that with all the other soaps that would be something 🙂

    Thanks again for the great post!!

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