The supercharged now

There is something thrilling about live performance. No matter how many hundreds of millions of dollars have gone into the production of a feature film, a movie can never replicate the delicious immediacy of a live performer on stage.

You know, when you are attending a performance, be it a play, opera, music concert, magic act or circus, that this is really happening, right here and now. And also that things might unexpectedly go wrong — or spectacularly right. When you see a movie, you know going in that no such real time uncertainties are possible, unless maybe the projector breaks down.

But a performance is also not quite the same as a conversation. Our real lives are largely unscripted. Dinner with a friend is very much a real time improvisation, whereas the person you see up on the stage is saying words what were worried over by William Shakespeare, or an arrangement of notes carefully composed by Ludwig van Beethoven.

A live performance is, in a sense, a supercharged now, an experience that takes place in the real-time present, yet is infused by non-real-time inventions created in the past.

There is nothing inherently better or worse about live performance. It’s just different. While a movie can offer a kind of perfection — each shot carefully worked over and edited until a precise effect is achieved — a play offers us the messiness of still-open possibility.

But even that is sometimes not enough. This evening a friend and I had planned to see a movie together. But in the end we opted for reality, with no supercharging at all. We went to a nearby restaurant to share a meal and great conversation. Nothing scripted, only the pure improvisation of living in the moment.

After all, what can be more thrilling than life itself?

Leave a Reply