Tag Archives: Baseball

A passion for theatre and baseball

Dodger_Stadium_Panoramaby 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”.     

Theatre and Baseball: The joy of watching the well made play

Dodgers game

by Stephen Sachs

In theatre and baseball, nothing beats watching a well-made play.

Right now, the Dodgers are the hottest team in baseball. Burning up the National League West, nearly 10 games ahead in first place and streaking toward the playoffs with only 30 games left to play. They’ve achieved an astounding turnaround since the season began. Only two months ago in June, they were in last place.  Then a miracle happened. Transformation. They now have the best record in baseball since the All Star break.  LA fans are elated, fired up. Dodger Stadium is selling out, the stands filling up with folk eager to watch, share and be part of this thrilling live event. Feverish with the same zeal of rushing to see a hit Broadway show. Why?

It’s dramatic.

Sure, everyone loves a winner. But if the Dodgers had leapt into first place from day one of the season our delirium today would be far less electric. Winning would become expected and, as all good playwrights know, giving the audience what’s expected kills drama. The Dodgers story this season is dramatic because they began the year so badly. Their story has what playwrights call dramatic arc.

Ft audience

In crafting a well-made play, the playwright shapes the story so that the protagonist (lead character) undergoes dramatic change: the character begins the journey one way and then, by overcoming a series of trials and obstacles, ends the play fundamentally different in some way. Opposite from how he began.  Like, say, beginning as a bad team in last place and then winning the pennant in first place at the end. Just saying.

Part of the joy of watching baseball is the relief of losing yourself in something that has nothing to do with whatever it is you do in real life. Even so, one can’t help 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.
  • A baseball game and a stage play both have a beginning, middle and end building 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.
  • Stage plays and baseball games are made of specific moments. A great baseball game and a powerful play can each have the power to contain that one unforgettable moment — that one crystalized 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.

In baseball and theatre, we lose 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?

Both theatre and baseball are a living, breathing experience that is only meaningful with audience interaction. Other human beings.

After watching a thrilling baseball game or seeing an unforgettable stage play, we exit the ballpark or theater and walk to our car or the subway with the same giddy elation. We’re wrung out, exhausted. And stirred up, juices flowing, exhilarated. We can’t stop yakking about the miracle we’ve just seen. Or we are heartbroken and grow quiet and sullen and can’t speak. Then there are those times, after seeing a great baseball game or an extraordinary piece of theatre, when we can not move.  At all. The game or stage play is over. We sit in our seat.  Paralyzed. Staring at the empty field or stage.  Marveling at what we’ve just lived through.

Lived through. We have just shared in a meaningful live experience with other human beings. We are alive.

Stephen Sachs is the Co-Artistic Director of the Fountain Theatre.