There are two types of theaters. Grand palaces, cathedrals to the arts. Red carpets, crystal chandeliers, marble, gold lief. Tiny naked baby angels. People in best dress, wearing clothes they wouldn't otherwise be seen in. But that's the point of that half hour between when the doors open and the lights in the auditorium dimming: seeing and being seen. Being seen in your expensive seat. Being seen in your moderately-priced seat. Looking up at the poor fellow sitting practically next to a support beam in the very last row. Raising your eyes in fake brightness and waving; you know him from work. The golden palace is a social event, a ritual and a rite, as much as anything. Chat with your seatmates, flip through the program only to the advertisements. Marvel at how every actor has been in Law and Order. The new summer stock house training ground.
It's different when the lights dim. It becomes a place where the imagination plays out in front of us in grand detail. We feel the highs, the lows, sharply and fully, and we leave with a smile, whether from happiness or from catharsis.
Then there are the ones that exist in darkness. Maybe they're an old storefront or a tiny space rented from an absentee landlord. Everything is painted black, the smell of must and old wood hangs in the air, the apron hangs out well past the proscenium into the audience, or the stage is a circle in the middle, like a bull fight. Folding chairs circle the area of action. The budget is low and there aren't enough Fresnel lights to go around. And they're always Fresnel. Because they are the cheapest to rent.
Cables taped to the floor with black duct tape because gaff is to far too posh a commodity for a director sleeping in his 1986 shit-brown hatchback Rustang.
The lone musician is on an electric keyboard--his own that he's donated to the production. The tickets are photocopied on red paper and the fliers for the production are hand-drawn and mimeographed like an Indy band playing at a coffee house.
Most of the tickets are given away for free to friends and family and schools. But the show always starts on time, and when it gets dark there is no shushing of the audience. The first light queue hits slowly, and the first words are nearly a whisper.
These are the theaters where the dark magic happens.