A couple of weeks ago, I did something that I never thought I would be able to do—I went and saw a show by myself. Now, this might not seem like a noteworthy event or something worth writing about, but it was the first time that I had ever gone alone to a night of theater.
Musicals have always been an experience that I have shared with my mom and sister, and there was something special about going to see a show together. I fondly recall the excitement of intermission, talking about the performances and the costumes and the singing and how we liked it, and what we were excited for in the next act. There is nothing quite like mid-show gossip, and it was so fun to be able to have that tradition with my family.
In college, things are a little different. My sister lives in a different state. Even if I did get the chance to go see a show, which is rare, it is even more unlikely that I will be able to find someone to drag along with me. Tickets are expensive, and musical theater, with its drama and choreographed dance-fights, is not for everyone. Yet, after a year and a half of Covid and the pandemic, I think that people have realized the importance of the entertainment industry, and how music, movies and television are such a significant part of our lives. Broadway and the theater industry was hit particularly hard during Covid, and to see touring companies performing again is a welcome and hopeful sign of a brighter future. So, when one of my friends gave up her only ticket to a musical on a Monday night, I decided to take a chance and go. I am so glad that I did.
As I was getting ready to leave for the show, I was worried that it would be awkward to be there alone. I had a student seat which meant that I would probably be thrust into the middle of a row, and I would have to walk past dozens of people, bumping my knees against the chairs and saying a hundred apologies. I thought that I would be lonely without anyone to talk to as I was waiting for the musical to begin. I thought that people would look at me strange for showing up to a show alone, especially as it happened to be Valentine’s Day. If I am being honest, and in some small ways, it was a little awkward. My seat was in the middle of a row on the right side of the auditorium, and I was squashed between two older couples on both sides. I could feel them looking at me, perhaps wondering why I was there or why I was interested in a musical about the music of the 1960s. However, all these brief, uncomfortable moments paled in comparison to the excitement and joy of seeing live theater again. I didn’t realize the freedom that I would feel.
There was something exciting about being there alone, becoming a faceless member of the audience when the lights dimmed and feeling no pressure to react a certain way and being able to fully immerse myself in the performance. Hearing the reactions of the people sitting around me made the experience even more enjoyable—everyone there was supporting the cast, uplifting the performers, and the applause were deafening after every breathtaking performance. During intermission, I had a lovely conversation with the people sitting around me. One man asked me what I was majoring in, and his wife asked me if I had ever done theater before (to which I detailed my brief experience as a high school theater kid). An older woman sitting behind me tapped me on the shoulder and said that I “won the prize for being the youngest person there.” It was an honor I accepted gladly, and she was so happy to see a member of the “younger generation” enjoy the same music as her. I couldn’t stop smiling—it was so precious to be able to share music with complete strangers. Although it was different than seeing a show with my sister or mom, there was something freeing about the experience. For someone who often relies on others to feel comfortable in social situations, it was a great learning experience for me. I realized that I could have fun by myself. It is okay to do things alone.
If music theater is not your thing (and I don’t blame you), then I challenge you to go and see a movie by yourself. Go see something that you have always wanted to see but could never find anyone to go with you. Try and separate yourself from the social expectations of such events and immerse yourself in the storytelling and performances in front of you. It is so much fun to share experiences with others, but it is important to be able to enjoy the time you spend by yourself.