Welcome to our first installment of “Vulture Thoughts,” our Thursday column by Artie, the JerseyArts.com Culture Vulture. He’ll be tackling a variety of topics about the arts in the Garden State, and we’re thrilled to have him on board. His picture, below, shows him brushing up on his “Sound of Music” knowledge via Steven Jay Schneider’s excellent book, 1oo1 Movies You Must See Before You Die. So, without further ado, take it away, Artie:

My feelings about audience participation…are complicated. Let me explain.

When you go to the theater for a show, there’s often an implied thought that you’re going to be in a controlled environment, in which a story is told to you–you sit down, settle in, and wait for the curtain to open and for the creative talent involved to work their magic as the story washes over you.

I like my performing arts like this. It’s in the sweet spot of my comfort zone; when I go outside that, I don’t know what I’ll find. It’s for exactly this reason that I’m a little in love with–and a little scared by–audience participation in the performing arts. On the one hand, it’s a vital and awesome chance to be right there as part of the story, and to really engage in the performing arts in a way that’s completely unique to that performance, never to be repeated again. On the other hand…I’m always worried I’ll somehow screw it up.

It’s weird to have a feeling of stage fright when you’re seated out in the house, waiting for the lights to go down, isn’t it?

All of this aside, I’m anxiously awaiting Sunday’s Sing-A-Long Sound of Music at State Theatre, where I’ll be joined by a few dozen nuns, goatherds, and scores of Jersey Arts Members in watching the timeless movie musical on a giant 42′ screen, and belting along with the classic songs. In a different life, I would have loved to play the Mother Abbess. “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” always gets me.

Anyway, sing-a-longs are having a bit of a pop culture moment, right now; I personally think it owes a lot to The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Shout-at-the-Screen tradition (and if I catch even one confused person at the show this Sunday with rice, newspapers, and a water gun, I plan on high-fiving them…and then heckling them).  But it’s branched off in all sorts of directions. You name the musical, there’s a sing-a-long version, these days. Mamma Mia. Grease. Glee. If it sings, there’s a performance you can attend, somewhere, where you can sing along. Here’s a guide to some of the best.

Backing on up to my stage fright thoughts–I know I’m being silly, here. The point of this is to go and have fun with a thousand other people who want to spend a little time in glorious sung tribute to the Von Trapp children. But, just the same, I’ll be taking full advantage of the pre-show vocal warmup.

I hope to see you there, friends. Look for me–I’ll be the handsome fella with festive blue ribbons in his plumage.

Artie will return next Thursday with more musings on the arts in New Jersey. Stay tuned!

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Culture Vulture
Culture Vulture

  • Dr B. Ritchey

    I love Artie The Culture Vulture!
    Not many groups have their own mascot!