In ancient Japan, when people wanted to be entertained, they would often attend a particular style of performance called "Noh Theatre." Noh Theatre, sometimes known as Nogaku Theatre, is a very traditional type of theater involving music, lots of movement and expressive carved faces.
In modern America, people who want to be entertained generally fail to attend any performance at all, and look at a screen instead, which is called "No Theatre." This is a modern tradition involving music, very little movement, and expressing yourself on Facebook.
I say all this as someone who is part of the problem. In spite of being a frequent live performer myself, my standard evening's entertainment does not include seeing a live show. (Or even live human beings.) And this is a shame, because there's something life-affirming about seeing a live show.
Which I knew, at one point. But I had somehow forgotten this until last weekend, when I was part of a comedy festival in the Adirondacks. Getting to perform as part of a comedy festival was, naturally, an honor and a delight. But one of the best perks of the whole event was getting to see all the other performers do hilarious live comedy at a classic theater.
Did I mention that the comedy festival was held at The Glove, a nearly century-old theater that used to be a main stop on the vaudeville circuit? Well, it was. And there's something about sitting in an old vaudeville theater, watching
But there's something different about live theater. Watching my favorite Saturday Night Live sketches on YouTube is pleasant enough, but I've never enjoyed it half so much as I enjoyed watching bizarre sketches unfold in front of my eyes last weekend, with an existentialist ventriloquist and a cancer-eating muppet.
And I guess that's part of the charm of live theater for me; you never quite know what will happen. After performing my set, some puppets came on stage and mocked the improv games I had just been playing. Later in the evening, a stand-up comedian tried to convince an audience member to propose to his girlfriend of five years.
Granted, the audience member wasn't me. But it could have been. And I guess that's the difference between live theater and watching things at home -- there's a human connection that goes on, a certain involvement you have with the performance in progress, simply by being a part of the audience.
If all the world's a stage, as Shakespeare once wrote, then we're not just players but also the audience for humanity. So while I love the tiny glowing stage that brings me my Netflix, I should try to remember that's it's never quite as involving as the big one.
Seth is a local humor writer, the author of "From God To Verse," and loves his tiny glowing stage. His column appears weekly in the Transcript, and weakly on his website at www.RisingPun.com.