Jonesing the Glow

I don’t know if it happens to other playwrights or theatre practitioners (or audience members for that matter), but, once in a while, when all the elements of a piece are really clicking, the actors are locked in the moment, the audience is with you, the tech and sound is just perfect, and the play slips into this perfect groove, something strange happens to my perception. It’s almost like everything in the theatre disappears except the action onstage, and colors seem to take on this weird, heightened glow, a hyperreal halo. The impact of language intensifies. The emotion deepens. It’s almost like you’re experiencing an altered state of consciousness, like a dream or fever or hallucinogenic drug, wherein everything seems so very much more powerful and gorgeous than…anything.


I really can’t explain it. I notice it more watching my own work, not because it’s so damned wonderful or whatever but because I think that moment taps into the unconscious mind, just as the original writing–when it’s working–arises from under the surface. But I’ve experienced it watching other people’s plays as well. It’s the shiver factor, when art cuts through your ordinary perception and reaches down into your soul. And you…shiver.

It doesn’t happen often. It never lasts. But, my God, when it’s there, it justifies all the endless rewrites, the rejections, the clunky rehearsals, the behind-the-scenes bullshit, and the lousy reviews. And it hooks you.

I remember coming home from seeing one of my productions, and it was just one of those charmed nights where everything–everything–worked. You coul see it on the faces of the audience–a dazed, flushed, happieness. A vaguely unreal aura seemed to surround me, follow me home from the theatre, and there I was standing in the kitchen, doing the dishes to burn off the excess energy, when I saw my face reflected in the kitchen window, and face looking back said: let’s do that again.

About Steve Patterson

Steve Patterson has written over 50 plays, with works staged in Portland, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Austin, Tampa, and other U.S. cities as well as in Canada and New Zealand. His works include: Waiting on Sean Flynn, Next of Kin, Farmhouse, Malaria, Shelter, Altered States of America, The Continuing Adventures of Mr. Grandamnus, Bluer Than Midnight, Bombardment, Dead of Winter, and Delusion of Darkness. In 2006, his bittersweet Lost Wavelengths was a mainstage selection at Portland Center Stage's JAW/West festival, and, in 2008, won the Oregon Book Award (he also was an OBA finalist in 1992 and 2002). In 1997, he won the inaugural Portland Civic Theatre Guild Fellowship for his play Turquoise and Obsidian. View all posts by Steve Patterson

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