by Abigail Cruz SA21-Q
I grew up as a musical fanatic, with my grade school days spent on stage, and my high school days spent backstage. As I grew older, I fell in love with producing shows more than performing in them. I love how the elements work like clockwork. After probably a year of musical drought, September brought in two beautiful shows for me to enjoy.
On the afternoon of the 2nd of September, I enter the lavishly adorned Main Theatre of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, waiting to see Andrew Lloyd Webber’s world-renowned musical, The Phantom of the Opera. At the end of the same month, September 30, I enter a different theatre, the more modern and luxurious Newport Performing Arts Theatre at Resorts World Manila to watch the critically acclaimed musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein, The King and I. In these two shows, I immerse myself as part of the audience and observe their behaviours before, during, and after the show.
The Phantom of the Opera theatregoers of September 2’s matinee show consisted of groups of families, businessmen and company employees (which was evident for they had their company IDs and took pictures beside their company’s tarpaulins). A select few of the theatregoers stood out from the semi-formal dressed crowd. Really, it wasn’t difficult spotting a flash of blue denim among dresses and suits. Most of the theatregoers were teenagers or older; although, there were few kids present. There was a throng of people around the souvenir booths, buying a copy of the playbill, the CD, and other merchandise. Even the lines for the signboards, costume displays and other printed promotions were long and scattered.
Once everyone was inside the theatre and the show started, applauds were given after every musical number, and the audience was silent for most of the show’s duration (excluding the chorus of intakes of breath at the amazing scene openers, and the quiet laughter at the more humorous parts). Also, not a lot of people kept standing up during the show to take a washroom break, most waited for the intermission. At the end of the show, there were groups of people who lingered in the theatre to talk to companions, and some who returned to the lobby to take their opportunity for more photo-ops.
The King and I theatregoers of the September 30 evening show displayed a relatively opposite behaviour. They composed of families, complete from their toddlers to their grandparents. The majority dressed down in smart-casual attires, leaving those glammed-up in dresses and suits stick out like a sore thumb. Not a lot of people stayed at the theatre lobby. In fact, the majority of the theatregoers arrived a few minutes before open house, back from walking around the mall. With that, only a few people, mostly kids and elders, took photos with the mock King’s throne at the lobby. Barely anyone bought souvenirs as well!
Once inside the theatre, the audience was noisy and everyone was talking with their seat mates, even after the performance bell rang at the 5 minute mark. The audience applauded after every musical number as well, although, there were those who howled too. During the show, the rows in front and behind mine both kept talking and commenting, some even whistled the tunes of the previous songs. In intervals of 15 to 20 minutes, there would be a group of people who had to rush back to their seats in between scene transitions. At the end of the show, the audience hurried out of the theatre, and people only lingered at the lobby to wait for their companions. A few went back to the King’s throne for photo-ops, and a only handful of people bought souvenirs.
Upon analyzing the behaviours of the two communities of theatregoers, I believe that the basic human need for socializing is the cause of the differences observed. This need for socialization is explained in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which presents socializing as a third level of need. To explain, I considered how much the tickets cost. The Phantom of the Opera offers tickets from Php 1,820 – 7,280, on the other hand, The King and I offers tickets from Php 1,000 – 2,400. From here, one cannot help but stereotype the people who can afford to watch these two shows. Subjectively, a more well-off theatregoer can enjoy VIP tickets for The Phantom of the Opera rather than a theatregoer who can only afford VIP tickets for The King and I, which costs three times as much as the VIP ticket for the phantom. After subconsciously (or knowingly) categorizing the theatregoers from each show, one cannot help but link them to stereotypical characteristics. Characteristics such as what to wear, how to act, and also, how to socialize.
With this in mind, theatregoers would want to be accepted and belong to the community of fellow theatregoers, thus the basic human need of socializing. Humans are social beings constantly looking for ways to socialize and interact with others. In order to do so, one would need to have something in common with them; hence the sense of belonging to a community, which is a group of people with a similar characteristic. This is why people mimic or conform to the characteristics of the stereotype of theatregoers from a particular show. They want to belong and fit in in that community of theatregoers, thus dressing and acting like the majority or what is accepted by the majority.
This explains how one may not find the same stereotype of theatregoers at the show of The Phantom of the Opera at the show of The King and I. You may find the same people, but not the same culture (the characteristics and behaviour of the theatregoers). The theatregoers would want to fit in with their fellow theatregoers from their particular show, or in other words, people would want to fit in with their fellowmen in their community. Thus the differences in culture from these two shows are brought upon by the basic human need of wanting to socialize and belong in a community. They just want to fit in!
McLeod, Saul. “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.” Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. N.p., 2007. Web. 05 Oct. 2012. <http://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html>.