|Gatz, credit: Joan Marcus|
These days, I am significantly less cool and less prone to movie marathons. Instead, I have graduated to something even classier: theater marathons.
A little more than a week ago, I ran my first theater marathon, courtesy of the Public Theater in New York, which remounted Gatz, from Elevator Repair Service (which I always thought must be really confusing for people who are looking for a real elevator repair service). It's a word-for-word reading and enactment of The Great Gatsby, aka "The novel I read in class when I was a teenager that everyone kept telling me was amazing but I was just hoping would be over soon." Gatz spanned an epic 6.5 hours plus 2 hours worth of intermission and a dinner break. It's still shorter than Angels in America, which clocks in at 7 hours or Nicholas Nickleby (8.5 hours).
I'm not going to reiterate the way that the production is like reading made literal or how beautiful F. Scott Fitzgerald's language is when you say it out loud. It beats reading the book in a 10th grade classroom.
Of course, my reaction to the prospect of sitting in a theater for 6.5 hours listening to The Great Gatsby differed from my friends reactions. Like so:
Me: "I'm so excited, I heard such great things about it. I've never done a theater marathon before. And this is going to be so cool!"
My non-theater-inclined friends: "Every word? That sounds horrifying."
It's not as horrific as the length would make it seem. In fact, with a handy base of what to expect, it's definitely more doable than running a real marathon. So here is a guide on how to sit through 6+ hours of theater.
How to Run a Theater Marathon
|Angels in American at Signature Theatre, credit: Joan Marcus|
- Wear comfortable clothes. Dress like how you would on an airplane, but one notch up. Because the same concept applies: you will be sitting in a confined, air-conditioned space, with hundreds of other people, for a long time. So jeans and a comfortable top, or a flowy dress, is good! Cocktail dress and heels, or a three-pieced suit: bad. Pajama bottoms: sloppy and lazy.
- Bring a bottle of water. Hydration is key to staying awake and focused. Avoid coffee or booze, or anything that will dehydrate you and make you sleepy. This is not the point of going to the theater, you are there to be alert, not to think about how you really want to jump around because you downed an espresso before the show. And nothing with ice either unless you want a cease-and-desist order from your neighbors during intermission.
- Bathroom breaks. Go before the show. And go during the intermission. You never want to be that person in the theater who ruins your neighbor's experience because you had to climb over them to get to the bathroom during the show.
- Snacks. Another good way to stay awake. Some suggestions: chocolate, dried fruit, granola bars, anything manageable and can be stowed away. No chips or carrot sticks or anything that makes a lot of noise. Torturing your neighbors with food is just plain cruel.
- Stretch your legs. Like on an airplane, every so often you should get up and stretch your limbs. Stand and/or walk around during intermission. It'll wake you back up and get you re-energized for the next segment.
- Spacing out. It's okay. In our ADD-inducing culture, we're grown out of staying focused a long time (while I'm writing this post, I'm checking my work e-mail, my personal e-mail, and Tweeting). So when you feel the need to mentally drift for 10 minutes or so, drift away. No one will judge you if not every word is hitting you every second. You have been doing this for 4 hours so far. But no snoring, that's just rude.
- Don't walk out. Like any other marathon, you will hit a wall of pain. There are moments when you will feel alert and invested. And other moments where you will probably fidget uncomfortably or even want to leave because it is hour 2 and the seats are uncomfortable and you don't know how long you can sit in the theater and this play is moving so slow! But don't give up! Be like a runner: move through the pain! After all, you just spent over $150 for a ticket, and you might as well get your money's worth by staying the whole time. And give it a while, you'll get into it.
- Feel lucky. Because as uncomfortable as you are right now, at least you're not like the actors on stage, who are doing the real work.
Or watch cat videos on YouTube.