Thursday, June 18, 2009

Another Openin', Another Show

Years ago, I wrote the divine Diane von Austinberg the following little note because she sidelines in the theater in Austin as a costume designer and had mentioned she had a ready stock of non-committal platitudes for occasions like the one I describe here.

“I let John talk me into a play last week. I have no idea why. He claimed it was "Something About Yes" which sounds like a sweet little valentine of a play. It turns out he just meant he couldn't remember the actual name, but knew it had the word "Yes" in it. In this universe the real name was "The House of Yes" which had been a movie with Parker Posie and Freddie Prinze, Jr. We spent the evening trying to decide if actors who rose to the level of competent could have saved it, but it seems unlikely. It was just a bomb waiting for a fuse. The plot line included incest and Jackie Kennedy's Channel suit. You do the math.

We were there because John's acquainted with the Stage Manager. Naturally, at intermission we had to make small talk with him and I was desperately trying to come up with some of the innocuous remarks you had given me as appropriate for when talking to theater people who are riding a dog. Of course, I couldn't think of any of them except for the definitively feeble "everyone's remembered their lines" I said it with real conviction, but somehow it was still so very lame.”

Herewith, Aunt Diane's list of things to say when speaking to folks from the theatre:

Cheat sheet (note that "performance" and "show" can often be substituted for each other, which specific term is used to better effect depends on whether one is talking to an actor or director):

1. That was SOME performance.

2. You'll be remembered for this for a long time.

3. What a show!

4. How DID you come up with that interpretation?

5. I've never seen anything like it!

6. I'm stunned!

7. You must be getting a lot of attention for this!

8. The critics didn't do the show justice.

9. What a night!

10. That was really something!

Note the importance of exclamation marks. Tone of voice is everything; your words may be subject to interpretation but the enthusiasm in your voice leaves 'em thinking you loved it. My friend Kathy's personal favorite is "Oh, you!!!" accompanied by a mild chuck on the upper arm and downcast eyes that indicate she'd never in her life be able to match that performance.

Thank you Diane.


  1. “Wow!”


    Accompanied with a slow clap of the hands three times while shaking your head NO.

    Approach to shake hands enthusiastically with a wide grin still shaking your head NO.

    Followed with another, "Wow!".

  2. *loud intake of breath whilst clutching heart*

  3. I have a ready stock of something similar too, for students.

    But there's always room for more.
    (taking notes)

  4. FABulous! Because that word is ready to be opened up to irony and multiple interpretations.

  5. "I will never be the same"

    I like the list you posted.

  6. Oh sweetie; always so glad to help. I suggest printing the list and keeping it in your wallet; you can always excuse yourself to the gents to refresh your memory if needed.

  7. And I forgot to mention that The House of Yes is an inexplicably bad play. My friend Kathy, who's mentioned in the post and is in fact a very good actor, was in it here; I can't remember which of the lines I used.

  8. I'm sure you were both firm and convincing.


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