Friday, March 13, 2009

Old Fashioned Good Time

A packed house for the HopKins Black Box Theater is about 70 people in folding chairs, the first row seated two feet from the stage and inescapably part of the show.

I took a seat in the back, center isle, elevated by a plywood riser above a stagehand running sound from a school desk. The house settled and the lights dimmed.

For the next ninety minutes we sat transfixed, folded into our chairs and into the story: "DNA Play," a dramatization of the discovery of the genetic molecule. The playwright was LSU's own Vince LiCata, our diversely talented professor of biological sciences. The young Black Box players were wonderful, each so reminiscent of a familiar actor--Neil Patrick Harris, Paul Giamatti, Tom Cavanagh--that you felt immediately comfortable in their hands and smugly certain to get your $5 worth of entertainment.

And so we did; and not only that, but now I can tell you a little about crystallography and the structure of the double helix!

How long had it been since I last saw a play? Two years, at least (that was Cocktail, also by LiCata). Before that, maybe twelve.

If the same is true for you, we've both been missing out. It's hard to imagine a better entertainment value: five dollars (suggested donation!) to enjoy the result of countless hours of hand crafting by a team of talented local artists. The entire company of writer, director, actors and technicians works basically for nothing except a few nights of our pleasure and their own. It is the oldest economic system in the world, and despite the claims of stock market experts, the most complex. The most important.

As we whittle down our expectations of disposable cash--disposable anything--and ponder our creep into relative poverty, these more rich and rewarding pleasures should reemerge: little theater, live music, literature, gardening, carpentry, cooking, hunting. All in the old ways, all to the old standards of generosity and enjoyment.

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