The 5 Senses of the Theatre
Updated: Oct 6
I am a theatre nerd. It started at a young age, with my mom taking me to Saturday morning kids’ shows at National Theatre. For my 11th birthday, I opted to take 1 friend to see Grease over a party with a bunch of friends. To this day, the go-to gifts for birthdays, mother’s days, and Christmas between my mom and me, are tickets to an upcoming show.
A good show may touch your heart, have you laughing for days, or simply get you out of your own head for a couple of hours. It doesn’t matter what type of show it is, to me, theatre engages all 5 of my senses.
It doesn’t matter if it is the large stages’ of Broadway and West End or a small outdoor venue like Wolf Trap in Virginia a simple stage can be transformed into a spectacular sight. Sets don’t have to be extensive or high tech either. Some of the simplest sets are ones that can elicit the most emotion or connect you to the show in the rawest way. It’s great when you can get good seats, but obstructed view seats can afford you a unique perspective as well.
Some of the pre-show sets from recent shows
I have seen Les Miserable three times – once in London, once at the aforementioned Wolf Trap and the third at a more traditional theatre – which honestly escapes me at the moment. In London, we lucked into day-of student passes at a seriously reduced price. It was a great opportunity to see this classic show that I had always wanted to see but – thus far- had not gotten the opportunity to see before. We were prepared for obstructed view seats, but as we climbed higher and higher, we were shocked at just how obstructed.
Our seats were above stage left. Literally, I could look across and see catwalks at our level! We were looking directly down onto the stage, which meant we could see all the actors setting, crew re-setting, and the magic of the drum set was quite diminished, as we got a ‘sneak peek’ of what was back there. As a former stage crew kid, this was awesome! It allowed us to see the show in a whole new way and instead of disconnecting us from the characters, it helped us to feel a part of them. As if instead of watching their plight, we were right there in the fight with them.
The second time I saw the show was on a smaller stage. I was excited that I was finally going to see the interesting spinning stage the way it was supposed to be seen. Except they didn’t have the capability to do this. They found other ways to show the magic, and they did a great job of it. The third time I saw the show, I finally got to see it with the drum set and in full spectacular fashion. Don’t get me wrong, it was still an amazing show, but not as memorable as watching it from the former unique perspectives.
This one is obvious and truly doesn’t need a lot of explanation. Even just the sound of the orchestra warming up is enough to build the suspense. I always enjoy listening to the crowd chattering in excitement before the show or having a mid-show discussion about the actors, the plot, and predictions for the next act. Then of course the words and the music (for musicals) that bring you into the world of the characters and make you forget about real life for a while.
Gotta have the pre-show selfie!
There is something about the smell of a theatre that touches my soul. I’m sure it has to do with my past in stage crew, but there is just a certain smell that I identify as ‘the theatre’ or better yet ‘backstage’. I’m sure it is due to my background in stage crew, but it’s a smell that brings happy memories and makes me feel at home.
No, I’m not going around licking the seats or the tickets, but yes, taste is still involved. Intermission means a quick dash to the bathroom, followed by a nice glass of wine while discussing the show thus far. I love the theatres that give you the plastic sippy cups that you can take into the theatre so you can sip while you enjoy the show.
Admittedly this one is a little more abstract than the other senses when it comes to theatre. It’s the touch of the tears on your face or your abs hurting from laughing so hard. When a show makes you emotionally feel so drastically that you physically feel it, even hours or days later.
The other week Broadway announced its come back for the fall. Theatres all over the country and indeed, around the world, are also announcing plans to open back up, some as early as June or July. I am absolutely thrilled for this industry that was totally shut down the last year and 1/2 that they are getting back to what they love. I’m also thrilled for myself that I get to support them as much as my budget will allow. I’m already scouting out shows to see when we head to London. I have a bucket list started of Broadway shows to see in New York (namely: Little Shop of Horrors with Jeremy Jordan) and I’m signed up for quite a few newsletters from theatres in the DMV to be the first to find out what’s coming.
I highly encourage you all to support this hard-working industry in its comeback. Whether you go to the touring company production of a Broadway show or your local community production of A Christmas Carol, go engage all of your senses and lose yourself in theatre!
Comment below and let me know what show you want to see or what your favorite show of all time is!