by Stephen Sachs
The red-hot Dodgers are the best team in baseball right now. They have a MLB leading record of 66 and 29, have won 11 in a row, and their current 30-4 run is now entering historic territory. They are the first National League team to achieve a run of this dominance since the 1936 Giants. This is a great year to be a Dodger fan.
This is also a great season to be a theatre fan. In regional theaters across the country and on Broadway, thought-provoking and powerful new plays are being developed and produced to illuminate the urgency of our times. Right here in Los Angeles, theatre has never been better.
My passion for both theatre and baseball were ignited at an early age and remain heated to this day. I am dedicated to both as a lifetime commitment, a sacred calling. America’s Pastime and The Great Invalid both require a fierce devotion, unyielding faith, a resilience to overcome disappointment, and the joyful capacity to celebrate excellence. To quote ABC’s Wide World of Sports, theatre and baseball each contain “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”
Granted, not every aspect of baseball and theatre are identical. In the theatre, only critics, pen and notepad in hand, keep score of the players as the action unfolds. Unlike baseball, a theatre audience does not stand en masse three-quarters into the play to sing, “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” Yet, one can’t help but see similarities between baseball and professional theatre.
- In both theatre and baseball, the crowd gathers together in a common place to engage in a live, shared dramatic experience.
- Theatre and baseball can happen anywhere, indoors and outdoors, in settings large and small. On neighborhood streets, in city parks, and in grand municipal buildings.
- A baseball game and a stage play both have a beginning, middle and end escalating toward a final resolution in which the dramatic question “who will win?” is ultimately answered.
- A stage play and a baseball game are driven by the same engine: conflict. Both have good guys and bad guys, heroes and enemies, humor, action, spectacle, courageous deeds and foolish gaffes, turns of direction and a climax resulting in either a sad or happy ending.
- Both theatre and baseball require teamwork and collaboration. We focus on the players in front of us but there is a huge staff of unseen professionals behind the scenes who make the whole experience possible.
- Theatre and baseball require years of training and a tremendous amount of practice. Contrary though it may seem, on the field and on the stage, repetitive drilling frees the player so he can let go and perform spontaneously, alive in the moment.
- A baseball team, like a cast of actors on stage, are both an ensemble who not only play well together but must also rely on the skill of lead players.
- Theatre and baseball are romantic. We idolize our favorite stars on stage and on the field. We swap stories about our favorite memories, spin yarns, follow careers of favorite players, share legends, recall highlights and laugh (or agonize) over famous flops.
- Baseball and theatre savor a rich and colorful history, a reverence for tradition, and eccentric superstitions.
- Stage plays and baseball games are made of moments. A great baseball game and a powerful play can each have the power to contain that one unforgettable moment — that one crystallized instant of perfect artistry, of joyous elation or agonizing heartbreak that sears itself into your soul forever. You remember it, that baseball play or that moment on stage, for the rest of your life.
My family video of the seventh-inning stretch at Dodger Stadium.
In baseball and theatre, we invest ourselves in the live dramatic event that is unfolding in front of us in real-time. We watch the struggle of other human beings engaged in dramatic conflict and care deeply about their outcome. Who will perish? Who survive?
As to survival, both theatre and baseball have been assailed as dying art forms for years. Both suffer from a decreasing appeal to young people, while viewership for both are getting older. Baseball games and dramatic plays are too slow and too long for this new generation raised on TV and video games.
Even so, my stat-obsessed sport tells me this: Live attendance to Major League Baseball games each year outnumber both NFL and NBA games combined, nationwide. Likewise, attendance for live theatre across the country is on the rise. These facts give me hope and tell me one thing. In this digital age, human beings still crave a fundamental need to assemble together in a shared public event that brings thought, drama, spectacle and enhances their lives.
Batter up. And “places for the top of Act One”.