chapter  1
Live Art, Death Threats: The Theatrical Antagonism of First Night
Pages 5

As a theatre critic in New York, I’m sunk into a red plush seat four or five nights each week. But often I’m somewhere else entirely. What made me love theatre? Its close-enough-to-touch immediacy, its blink-and-you’ve-missed-it evanescence, its imperative that all of us-actors, spectators, ushers, spotlight opsbreathe together in tall, windowless rooms. Yet during most plays my interest flags and suddenly I’m wondering which subway to take home or worrying that my husband never soothed the baby to sleep or (shamefully) working out the opening paragraph of the review so that I can get to sleep a little earlier myself. At these shows, I’m a sad example of Bertolt Brecht’s derided audience: ‘true, their eyes are open, but they stare rather than see, just as they listen rather than hear’ (Brecht [1949] 1992, 187).