Scene Changes

As a playwright and regular theatregoer, I spend a lot of time thinking about scene changes. To me, it’s the biggest distinction between live and edited entertainment, the fact that in order to change location or create a distinct moment in time, you have to somehow trick your audience into being patient while you move things around. Big budget theatres of course have hydrolics and turntables and things that make all of this look effortless, but having spent a few years as a techie I can attest that there is nothing ever effortless about it. Having fluid and interesting scene changes is for me really the mark of a good director. It is truly what separates the amateurs from the pros.

Last night, I had the undeservedly good fortune of getting to attend the Primetime Emmy Awards. As you may know, my husband Brian is a writer/producer on LOST, and the show was nominated for Best Drama Series. Since the vast majority of the cast and crew were in Hawaii and hard at work, the Academy was kind enough to let a few lowly writers through the door. 

The show was at the Nokia Theatre this year, a big cavernous space in the Conventioncenterland section of downtown LA, an area I’d only been to once before. We got to ride in a limo, walk down the red carpet, and then eat pretzels at the bar with a couple hundred other members of Hollywood High School before taking our seats for the big show.

Now, I had been warned by many that the show would be boring. But, as someone new to the scene, I just assumed they were all being melodramatic and too cool for school. Maybe if you went to like, ten ceremonies in a row I could see how it could get old, but seriously. It’s the Emmys! I watch the whole thing at home and I’m usually engaged. What could the problem be? Quit complaining, I said.

Until last night.

You see, the part that you don’t get to see if you watch the show on television is what happens during the commercial breaks. And for those of you who out there who are wondering, the answer is: nothing. Or next to nothing. No band playing lively music, no comedian cracking jokes, nothing but an Emmy highlight reel with clips of shows from years gone by. In theatre terms, dead air. These clips would end about sixty seconds before the end of the break, leaving us to sit quietly and stare at the empty stage, waiting patiently for the show to return. It was enough to make this theatregoer long for them to play the commercials. 

But in spite of the dips in energy, the three hour ceremony actually did go by in flash, and in no time we were on to the really exciting part of the evening: the governor’s ball and the after-prom parties that followed. Highlights of the evening for me included:

1. Getting to meet and chat with The Daily Show/This American Life contributor/Hobo expert John Hodgman (who still totally baffles me in the ads because he is so a Mac and that other guy is clearly a PC).

2. Witnessing the reunion of Brian with his childhood friend (and now Daily Show contributor) Wyatt Cenac.

3. Hanging out with Andre Royo aka Bubbles, who I had the pleasure of working with at HB back in my techie days, and saying hello to a bunch of other actors from the Wire.

4. Engaging in the most amazing people-watching of my life.

Because the thing is, these portions of the evening were really about a live event, with people getting to interact, to laugh, to cry, to perform for the rest of the crowd. That first part of the night, they weren’t really trying to make it a good time for those of us in the auditorium. That was really just a TV taping.

Not that I wouldn’t go to it again. Are you kidding? It was the f-ing Emmys.

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3 thoughts on “Scene Changes

  1. Casey says:

    Hi Ruth! I am so glad you got to reconnect with Andre. I fondly remember his amazing performance as Cupcake in Short Eyes @ HB. He is a class act and it’s great to see all the success he’s had with the Wire.
    This is a great post and solves the mystery of what they do at the awards shows during commercials! I am so glad you got to attend and thanks for posting about it! 🙂

  2. Megan says:

    Oh, man, that would be some kind of awesome people watching. So envious.

    I can’t wait to tell Richard about your meeting John Hodgman, though. He will probably actually turn green.

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