I think those that know me, know that I am not a theater romantic. I’ve learned that romanticism can go a long way in ruining art. Maybe it is my cliché Midwestern upbringing, but I what I love about theater is the grind. I love the work; the long almost unmanageable tech weeks, the frantic rhythm of the process. That’s not to say I don’t have times where I don’t step back and appreciate the more “magic” moments, it isn’t just how my bread is buttered, generally.
“I Saw You” has been running weekly for about 3 years. Unless it is a major holiday, we have a show going on. We don’t do reservations, and since the nature of the show is to be different every time, you don’t know what is going to happen that night.
At about 7:40 last night two gentleman walked into Town Hall Pub, and I welcomed them with my customary “You guys here for the show tonight?”. They weren’t, which isn’t uncommon, but they asked what the show was about, which is a normal progression in a conversation like this. These conversations happen weekly, as I try to sell the concept, and the very affordable $5 cover, to people just coming in to drink at their local bar. What set this apart, was determining if someone who was deaf, along with his sign interpreter friend would enjoy the show.
After a bit they just wanted to have a couple drinks, and take off before the show. They went and sat down by the stage and I lost track of them as I ushered in the rest of a rather large audience. In the midst of taking money and doing my market research (So, how did you hear about the show?) I forgot about them. I pretty much assumed they left as I was giving times to actors and asking for refills on my soda water with lime.
With more people drifting into the show during the first section, the missed connections, I didn’t get a chance to settle and watch the show until about twenty minutes in. It was then that I noticed Robert sitting with his back to the stage signing the show to his friend Scott. As the three ladies of ladies night, Alison, Jen and Kim, started hitting their groove on a really killer show, I couldn’t help but watch Robert and Scott. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I was very curious to how the show was playing.
If you haven’t seen the show yet, and why haven’t you, seriously, over 3 years weekly, only $5, “I Saw You” relies heavier on the aural experience than its visual. There is a visual aspect to the show, obviously, but the comedy comes from the words. But as my eyes bounced between the crowd, the performers, and Scott and Robert, I started to notice that it wasn’t merely the words he was signing with his hands, Robert physically inhabited the characters while his back was to the actual performers. At times his physical stature was mimicking almost exactly the performer’s physical choice. I was amazed but also proud of the performers, that their choices were so simple and clear that someone who wasn’t watching the show, just listening, could so accurately physically inhabit it.
When the show was hitting its last round, I made my way back to the iPod, readying the post show music. I set the iPod to James Brown’s “Sexy, Sexy, Sexy” waiting for Jen to wrap the show up. When she said “That’s the show ladies and gentleman…” a very spirited round of applause, hoots, hollers, Clint’s weird “loulouloulou” sound commenced, though the thing that caught my eye was Scott jumping to his feet, and if I’m not mistaken, thrusting his fist into the air. That is the first time this show has ever brought someone to their feet at the end, and also its first fist pump.
After the show we all got to sit and talk to Scott and Robert. Grizzled and cantankerous as I am, getting to know people through the show is one of those “magic” moments that I do relish. I’m thrilled to have new fans of the show that are as excited about it as I am. “I Saw You”s earliest seed came from Clint reading me personal ads in the truck as we schlepped up and down Lincoln with props for a fundraiser. We didn’t know how, where, or why, we just knew there was “something” to it. What happened last night wrenched me out of the “grind” and made me appreciate what was going on. Three and a half years later we have a show that continually challenges my ideas on how storytelling works, and pushes me to make sure our story telling always gets better. And it has dick jokes.
If you’ve made it this far, I only have two more things to say. First, “I Saw You” is at the Town Hall Pub every Wednesday, 8pm/$5. We have ten performers but only three go a night, so between that and a constant flow of new material, no two shows are the same! And not in an ephemeral artsy fartsy way, but in a, “No, really, every show is really different, seriously”. Second, “I Saw You” is a personal labor of love. And if we’ve after a show with a couple of beers in me, you may have heard me say that regardless of who is in town, or what is going on, if “I Saw You” is going on, it is the funniest show in the city. I know, soberly, within the confines of my day job, put that in “print”. That wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for a group of 10 outrageously funny and talented people. I would kiss all of them if they were here.
Thanks for reading; I have to go put my hardened exterior back on. And don’t forget to check out the Reader Recommended Daddy Long Legs!