I was at Disney World a couple of weeks ago. I am at Disney World often. I like Disney World. No I’m not kidding. Craig and I have been going on a regular basis for over ten years. We never tired of it. Yes it is mecca of merchandise. But it is also an atmospheric paradise. (And a crazy good place to people watch) From the decorations, to the music, to the lighting to the cracks in the sidewalk everything is themed. When you pass through the entrance for some rides, it is like being transported to a whole new world. Florida falls away and you’ve become an active participant in a story. Sometimes it’s a lame story, sometimes the story isn’t all that clear, but there is always a narrative to the ride.
The Tower of Terror (or The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror) is an example of great storytelling. The ride itself is a drop ride. You get flung up and you go down. Very simple. Except that it’s not. I first rode this ride in 1997 and some fifteen years later I am still thrilled to get in line. It is my favourite ride, it is a must do for every trip, I have never been bored. And that is because of the theming, the atmosphere, the world that I’m transported to.
You enter the ride by going through broken down gates of the Hollywood Tower Hotel. The hotel hasn’t been in operation since 1939 when something…. horrible happened. The instant you walk through those gates, it’s hard not to feel transported. You’re hearing ghostly music from the thirties. You’re seeing overrun gardens and crumbling stonework. A mist hangs in the air. And in front of you the remains of an abandoned hotel from which you can clearly hear the sounds of screaming….
The point is, this ride begins about fifteen minutes before you even get into a seat. The experience of the ride itself is great. But it’s the atmosphere leading up to the ride that makes it an experience. A completely different world.
When you write a play or when you direct a production, what are you doing to create a different world for your audience? To me that’s what I love about the theatre, I love its ability to transport me. To take me some where, to show me something beyond the ordinary. A new world. Theatre must be beyond ordinary in some way. And when theatre is sloppy or jaggedly remind me of the ordinary world I get so irritated. It’s a lost opportunity to showcase what is special about the theatre.
How does Theatre transport you?