The other day I saw a play, and it was bad. It was terrible. It was painful to watch.
I see my fair share of new plays. Untested, newly produced plays with living playwrights that may be at the show that I am seeing. These plays are produced by people that I respect, that use the resources that they fight for, the space that they spend time searching for, to put up these never before produced new plays, and I love that. Most of the time these new plays are innovative, inspiring and fun to watch; but once in awhile a stinker gets through. When seeing a bad play I suggest you do the following:
1)Give the play another chance- Sometimes it takes a bit for momentum to build, for the play to get its legs. Don’t just shut down, go with it and see what happens.
2)Find a character that you want to see through what may be a complete train wreck- The structure might be poor but the characters could be alive and full.
3)Fantasize about the actors- I like to think about the actors, what they do backstage, how long it took them to memorize each line, if they go out every night after the show or if they will wait till the very last performance to really let loose and party.
4)Take in the sound and design elements- Is the set interestingly structured? Does it look like a particular set piece was made with love by a stage hand? Is the story reflected in the scenery? The design of a set can sometimes take something mediocre and elevate it to bearable. Sound design is the unsung hero of the theater. A good sound designer is hard to find and I know two of the best. I know the amount of effort they put in to every show they work on, even the ones they don’t necessarily enjoy. The sound of water dripping, the mumbles through the wall, those original songs that are piped in for atmosphere, behind all of that is a sound artist and you can lose yourself in their work.
5) If all else fails reflect- Finding time to just meditate and reflect on your day, or your life or how you are feeling is rare. You're in the dark and no matter how good you think a play is you are being confronted with humanity, which naturally makes you think about your own, so go with it, lean in.
I hope that helps. There is nothing worse than seeing a bad play but don’t let that ruin the overall experience of being in a theater and definitely don’t let that be the last play you see. The next one may open your mind to possibilities that you never knew existed; the next one may change you life.