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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
The Observer

The joys of the flesh

On the way to choosing not to make theater my main career path, I've had a number of experiences over the years with Very Serious Auditions.

Those who've been there too know that Very Serious Auditions (henceforth defined as dramatic try outs heavily influenced by the director's core thesis for the performance, such as that one for "Alice in Wonderland" in high school where we had to prove our suitability for the play by producing a paragraph of nonsense on our audition sheets) often prove, regardless of whether one is cast, to be personally enriching and beneficial. Having to act like a tormented soul in hell, for instance, turned out to be an incredible stress reliever.

Anyhow, I recently went to a Very Serious Audition that involved giving one's own take on the director' core thesis (a director's having such a thesis being of course the key trait of a Very Serious Play). The director in this case was a fellow student, and the play his reworking of a nihilistic "underground" classic. The audition monologue told the story of a sad little boy whose family, friends, and whole world had turned to plastic. The set, it was explained, was envisioned as a jungle of plastic mannequins.

When I'd finished auditioning, the director asked what I'd thought the story meant.

"Well, one person is isolated." I struggled for something more clever. "He can't connect. He's surrounded by people made of plastic, and -"

VS Student Director: "What's wrong with people being made of plastic?"

Me: "Uh...they're not alive." Struggle more. "I mean, they're cold. They don't move. They don't breathe, they don't feel, they don't love..."

I think I ended there, but given time I could've gone on. It's actually fun to keep considering how many other things plastic people can't do. They can't act, they can't read, they can't cure cancer, they can't write self-deprecating meta-columns, they can't listen to enough music to declassify metal, they can't drink Guinness and dance on tables, and, most importantly, they can't enjoy the Magic Fountain in Barcelona.

And they can't shift gears and change direction in the middle of a column. Like this.

My brother and I visited Barcelona for three days over winter break. I found it a gorgeous, interesting, and occasionally cheap city with relatively good weather, and would recommend it to anyone who has a chance to go.

But of all the things you shouldn't miss while you're there, the Magic Fountain outside the National Gallery is pretty high on the list. By day, this is just a normal city fountain in front of a pretty eighteenth-century domed building. But for two half-hour segments each evening, with the aid of some colored lights, hidden jets, opera, and lots of coordination, it becomes so much more.

Deconstructed the "Magic" is not very impressive: just color, music, and streams of water. And yet as my brother and I, heeding some very enthusiastic reports on Trip Advisor, made our way through the subway system and up the boulevard at the appointed time, we did so amid a huge and diverse crowd bound cheerfully for the same destination.

And another huge and diverse crowd was already there when we arrived. It was chilly and pattering rain; it wasn't long after New Year's. Still, despite the reasons to go somewhere else and stay inside, there must have been hundreds of people there. And of all kinds, too.

As we passed by a wall, two high school boys standing atop it each reached down to help up a female companion. We finally found a place to stand ourselves, next to a family that might have been speaking Polish. There were small kids there, but just as many if not more equally excited adults. As Americans, my brother and I were in the minority. Once the show began, the camera flashes from the crowd were almost as spectacular as the Fountain itself.

Nothing more than light, color, and sound. But hundreds of people were drawn together and made happy. They enjoyed the Magic Fountain. To apply Modus Tollens, because they did, and exhibited their inner and outer senses in doing so, they were not made of plastic. We were-are-not made of plastic.

So we can bring a column back around full circle and draw conclusions, too.

And while our having fun at the Magic Fountain may not prove conclusively that there's anything wrong with being made of plastic, it does prove that there's something very right about not being.

And this conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, loyal daughters and sons, and especially veteran and aspiring theater geeks alike, is just one of the reasons why we can never really have too many experiences with Very Serious Auditions.

Katherine Khorey is a junior studying English and Russian abroad at Trinity College, Dublin. She was in fact only signing up to be in the stage crew for Alice, and is still a little miffed that creating nonsense worthy of Lewis Carroll was a prerequisite for lugging sets (especially since Carroll's nonsense really isn't). You may contact her at

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not

necessarily those of The Observer.