COVID-19 survey of theater audiences: a parody

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Illustration for Janiak Column on theater questionnaires.

Dear boss,

Thank you for purchasing a ticket once and thus for receiving weekly emails from us for the rest of your life. Could you help us get back to in-person indoor performances in two to 36 months by telling us, in this quick poll, how you are feeling right now?

(1) How do you feel about coming back to our inner room?

(A) I feel everything that UCSF Department of Medicine Chairman Bob Wachter, UCSF Infectious Disease Expert George Rutherford, and San Francisco Chronicle health reporters Erin Allday, Catherine Ho and Aidin Vaziri me say to feel.

(B) I know I should be (A), but I haven’t heard from any of these people for at least five minutes, and I feel trapped under a cloud of anxiety.

(VS) I don’t read the news myself, but I guess others around me do. I move with the prevailing winds. I swim in the middle of the school of fish. If others jump off a cliff, so do I. I have no will, so I mix up metaphors.

(D) My feelings come from within. No news or other people’s behavior can affect me. I’m invincible. I live dangerously.

(2) What precautions would make you feel ready to come back?

(A) Astronaut suits with oxygen tanks for the audience, staff and actors. Maybe you could stage “Hamlet” in space? Consider the new resonances! “I could be locked in a nutshell and think of myself as a king of infinite space, if I didn’t have bad dreams.”

(B) I have never felt ready for anything in my life.

(VS) Uh, will I feel ready when you tell me it’s safe? When other people left and didn’t die?

(D) I’m outside your theater right now, waiting for you to let me in so I can lick some armrests. Salvation! It’s me in the bushes.

(3) Are you ready to wear a mask in our theater?

(A) I am newly alarmed, saddened and angry at the state of our world that this is even a question. Why are others so much more selfish than me?

(B) This poll makes me realize that I am a bad person.

(VS) Am I still allowed to drink $ 12 concession wine from plastic cups?

(D) I never followed a rule, not once. I find the masks slightly uncomfortable and I never prioritize the collective good over my convenience. In fact, I actively undermine the collective good even when it’s embarrassing. Also, I’m so bad I’ll say (A) even though (D) is my real answer.

(4) How important is it for you to continue to offer streaming options?

(A) Streaming solved all of my theater issues, including those before the pandemic. Now I don’t have to put my butt in someone’s face as I sit in a row up to my seat. Now I no longer have to wage a silent but fierce war of knees and elbows on the invisible line between my space and that of my neighbor. Now I can revel in my love, which is the theater, while avoiding what I hate, which is the human.

(B) Do I still exist? I haven’t spoken to another human in weeks. Quick, ask me more questions about myself.

(VS) Are we saying out loud that the most popular theater is very bad?

(D) I will be vigorously demanding in-person and online options and not attending either of the two, but also object when I see higher prices.

(5) What is security anyway? Do you know Do i know? To help!

(A) I knew it! I will never go to a theater again unless all the box office workers have a doctorate in epidemiology.

(B) I’m just a member of the audience, just as lost. Wait, are you and I supposed to be a questioner? Can it be love?

(VS) Well, I guess it’s not too late to start liking a less intense art form. Like the opera.

(D) Yes, my pretty, launch yourself into this existential crisis. Because that’s what spectators like me go through to provoke in theater workers like you. I don’t even exist outside of the times when I make your life miserable. I am a spirit, a force, a miasma. I’m haunting your ticket office 800 number, your inbox, your windows outside the theater. I never turn off my cell phone, but haughtily silence others who don’t either. I attend plays especially when I have a cold. I hijack post-show Q&A with comments that meander for minutes.

(6) Uh! How do you defeat you?

(A) On guard! (Stabs D with rapiers which, by the way, are staged nearby in this survey.)

(B) Separate them; they are furious!

(VS) Hey, I’m Fortinbras; I just arrived.

(D) Well, like a woodcock from my own source, Osric, I am rightly killed by my own betrayal.

* * *

Answers! Even though this isn’t a teen magazine quiz, we’ll still tell you who you are based on your answers.

Mainly A: Yes, you are better than everyone else, but you already know that, so you don’t need us to stroke your ego.

Mainly B’s: Your poor mental health is probably leading you to make good public health decisions, so keep going.

Mainly Cs: You probably bowed out before the end of this poll.

Mainly D: Are you Laertes in “Hamlet”, obviously?




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