Life is Short: Support Live Performance

With the end of my first semester of college, I have been taking time to reflect on all the new, exciting experiences I have had over the past three and a half months. When I’m feeling stressed and overwhelmed (and believe me, that’s often) I try to do one of those corny self-care activities where I write down three good things that happened that day or “count my blessings.” You know, those things your mom tells you to do when you call her crying over your “my world is ending” problem of the week.  

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about all the fun things I’ve had the opportunity to do last semester, and the thing that stands out most prominently is all of the live performances I have seen around campus. I have been especially lucky because this semester I was enrolled in a course called Great Performances, a First-Year Writing seminar that focuses on writing about and discussing live performance.

Because I have been a devout theatre kid since my freshman year of high school (credits to Hamilton), the thought of being enveloped in the performing arts scene in a college town, especially an artsy city like Ann Arbor, excited me greatly. I also took the initiative to buy tickets for shows I personally wanted to see, because going to live performances (particularly musicals) is my absolute favorite form of self-care (when I can afford it). What I found from these experiences is that being connected to a piece of art that is the culmination of so many hardworking peoples’ efforts, is something that is rewarding to experience. There are so many options for shows to go see that you are bound to find something that sparks interest.

In order to figure out what kind of performances are worth seeing, I have provided three jumping-off points. Whether it is a famous show or singer coming to your campus or a student-produced play, supporting live performance is a great way to reward yourself with a fun experience as well as the artists you are seeing with a great audience.

Go see a show you’re excited about  

If you have never gone to see a show on campus before, I would encourage you to first find a performance that makes you excited to go to it. No one wants to be bored by the show they are paying for, so pick one that makes you want to make an effort to leave the comfort of your room and be captivated by something incredible. Aside from all the amazing performances I got to go watch for Great Performances, I also went to a few performances that I wanted to see because it was something that I was interested in (pro tip: take advantage of those student ticket prices while you can, performances can be pricey).

A standout performance for me this semester was John Cameron Mitchell’s Origin of Love.Mitchell’s show (accompanied by his incredible band and his beautiful, badass vocalist guest Amber Martin) detailed the process of writing his cult classic musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch while performing songs from the musical and beyond. Both Mitchell and Martin were incredibly captivating performers and storytellers that kept me on my toes and wanting more the entire evening.

One moment I was laughing at a dirty joke, the next tears were streaming down my face, and then JCM was suddenly jumping off the stage to crowd surf among an audience comprised, primarily, of geriatrics. It was a fun, heartfelt experience that I will never forget, and most importantly, something I was excited about. So I advise you to consider taking a break from trudging around in the mysterious frat house floor sludge or slaving away in the library trying to catch up on the homework time you napped through all week, and go support a group of hardworking people by being the most enthusiastic audience member you can be.

Go see a student production

At Michigan, we are lucky to have an esteemed music school with incredibly talented students who put on productions for people to come and enjoy. I was particularly excited to see that the students from the musical theatre department were putting on the William Finn musical, A New Brain. I am a huge fan of William Finn musicals (if you haven’t listened to or seen A New Brain or Falsettos, you are missing out greatly), so I was set on going to see this piece. The performance of the music and script was everything I had hoped for. The cast encapsulated the unique humor and sentimentality of Finn in such a way that I rarely thought about the fact that the artists in front of me were professionals-in-training.

Attending student theatre is important, because it will quickly make you remember the fact that you go to the same school as these great minds that you likely pass on the street daily. In college, people are often caught up in their own little worlds, so much so that they forget to appreciate the community that helps them to thrive and succeed. Going to student productions can help you to step outside of yourself for some time and celebrate the heart and soul that your fellow students put into their work.

Go see something you wouldn’t normally choose

An aspect of Great Performances that I am incredibly thankful for is the exposure to live performances I received that I would have never chosen to see on my own time. One performance that particularly stood out to me was the Irish re-imagining of the classic ballet Swan Lake called Loch na hEala. This was a gritty, dark, disturbing story that criticized Ireland’s societal iniquities, and I was captivated by every moment of it. Sure, maybe watching beautifully skilled dancers glutinously devour birthday cake and beer and scream intermittently for ten minutes straight wasn’t exactly the choice I would have made when deciding what to do on a Friday night, but I’m glad it ended up being my fate.

Going to see a show that you would not usually lean towards is a great way to expand your horizons and expose yourself to important stories that would have otherwise remained unknown.

Overall, exposing yourself to a multitude of stories can be rewarding in terms of opening your eyes to ideas that make you think and feel, as well as allowing yourself to take a break from all of life’s obligations and make yourself a part of something bigger, at least for an hour or so.

 

 

IMAGE SOURCES

https://www.clickondetroit.com/all-about-ann-arbor/2019/10/24/university... st-john-cameron-mitchells-the-origin-of-love-tour-in-ann-arbor/

https://performing.artshub.com.au/news-article/reviews/performing-arts/j... ake-loch-na-heala-perth-festival-257302

https://www.michigandaily.com/section/arts/%E2%80%98-new-brain%E2%80%99-...

https://www.bristol.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/2020/theatre/ba-theatre-performance/