Posted 17 June 2006 - 07:33 PM
I just returned from the final performance of the week: the 50th Anniversary Gala, performed at the outdoor Pritzker Pavilion in Millenium Park (which is the northern end of Grant Park).
On the program: excerpts from Romeo and Juliet, Pas des Déesses, Ruth: Ricordi per Due, and Celebration!
It was a somewhat bizarre experience.
When we arrived, most of the seats were roped off for the bigwigs who had paid for tickets to the Gala (which I think was a pre-performance reception and a post-performance dinner). We got three seats far back, but center stage -- then noticed the large grey box between us and the stage, which presumably shields the lighting board or something. Then noticed it is clearly designed to roll back and down. But usher said it probably wouldn't be moved, so we changed to seats farther back and over to the side. Can't see much from there: no rake. Then another usher says it definitely will be moved, so we change BACK to seats just behind where we had been. At this point, the box IS rolled back and into its home, and the sight lines are clear.
The bigwigs arrive. We have some fun ogling the fancy dresses (everyone else is in shorts and t-shirts, as it is about 85 degrees and muggy). After a bit, all the bigwigs are seated and there are still plenty of seats, so the ushers open it up to the hoi polloi. We change seats AGAIN to about 10 rows closer. The view is noticeably better.
The program begins: first an orchestral piece, and then R & J . For a while, all is lovely -- if you don't mind the visual confusion of sumptuous gold and black costumes dancing against a backdrop of a seated orchestra in black pants and white short-sleeved shirts. Then it starts to rain a bit, and the wind picks up. (Remember the scene in The Company ?) Umbrellas get opened, blankets are thrown over heads, and all the bigwigs hustle off to the protection of the side structures. Lots of other people just get up and leave. For a few minutes, the whole audience area is a-bustle and the action on stage is totally lost. Then the big grey box is rolled out of its home, and instantly we are no longer seeing Romeo AND Juliet , but Romeo OR Juliet -- whoever happens to be stage left, as the box completely obliterates the whole of stage right. We move AGAIN to seats further on the side that the bigwigs have vacated.
We get to watch most of Pas de Déesses unhindered.
Suddenly the woman in front of me vomits. Copiously.
We move further down the row.
It stops raining. In fact, it never did much more than drizzle. In dribs and drabs, the bigwigs return to the seats -- wherever they can find them, as the hoi polloi have moved in some more. I lose some concentration as I wonder if they are really annoyed at the whole thing, and what they think about Joffrey management, and whether support is going to plunge or Someday We'll All Laugh About This.
The performance ends with Celebration , which I still think is about the silliest, most random, most banal piece of choreography I've ever seen. However, the audience is appreciative and sends off the company -- by now, the whole company, some in costume and some in tuxes and gowns for the Gala -- off with a standing O.
So ... was it a colossal blunder scheduling this important event outside, in an unprotected pavilion? Or was it a really good PR move to expose all the people wandering by on this summer night to the unexpected treat of this 'foreign' artform?