Sharing a Stage with Bryan Cranston and Nick Wyman OR A Review of On-Stage Seating for Network (a Broadway Play)
My husband and I were looking for a show to see in NYC and he sent me a link to Network on Broadway, starring Bryan Cranston (also known to me as ‘the dad on Malcom in the Middle).
“Sounds good” I replied.
A few minutes later he emailed me that StubHub had 2 seats for “on-stage seating” and that we’d be served dinner during the play. I’m a big fan of “free food” during entertainment, but what was that part about being on-stage?
There are scenes in a restaurant/bar in Network and the director, Ivo van Hove, chose to make an ‘immersive dining experience’ part of the show. A handful of audience members eat at a small on-stage restaurant during each Network performance. John and I wondered whether the tickets available for sale on StubHub were a case of someone who suddenly decided they didn’t want to be putting food in their mouth with a thousand people looking on. Did we want to eat that way? Would this be the greatest Broadway experience we ever had? Or would we be looking at the back of Bryan Cranston’s head as he spoke to the real audience?
After a bit of waffling, we asked ourselves, “When might we ever have a chance to be ON a Broadway stage during a Broadway play again?” We purchased the tickets.
Short Story: I Loved It
Longer Story: 5 Reasons I Loved It:
- The Backstage Pass Effect: We got to see the performers getting ready for the show. Some were warming up on yoga mats when we arrived. Bryan Cranston came out a few minutes later and sat in a chair off to the side getting final make-up done.
Giant countdown clocks appeared on several monitors reminding everyone that there was a schedule to meet and adding to the sense of excitement.
We were allowed to take photos on the stage ahead of the performance, or have a staff member take a photo of us — as long as we didn’t, as I briefly violated, step on the yoga mats or in any other way interfere with preparations.
2) Everyone on stage wanted the night to be fun. A young couple, boyfriend and girlfriend were seated at the table next-to-us. When I heard she had had no idea until that moment of what he had planned for the night, just that it was ‘something special’, I couldn’t help but comment and we chatted about what we knew, and didn’t know about the play and our seats.
Our waitress for the evening was enthusiastic and gracious. All the performers brought great energy. Yet, Barzin Akhavan, stood out as he bounced across the stage pumping up the crowd. He would have made Tigger proud.
3) YUM: The food was in fact delicious. Anyone who can prepare vegetables where I’m eating every morsel belongs in a culinary Hall-of-Fame.
4) Actor Interaction: One of the actors, Nick Wyman, after he completed his warm-up on the yoga mat, sat down on the sofa next to our table and asked us how we were, where we were from. My husband in turn asked Nick about his acting career and was it as fun and glamorous as it seemed. He replied “Actually performing is great. Like dessert. The real work is in finding jobs. The real work is in keeping going when you hear ‘No’ one hundred times.” We went on to talk more about dealing with rejection and I mentioned as a writer, learning to deal with rejections from publishers. Nick asked what I wrote, an interest level that surprised me, so I told him about Out of Work to Making Money, 21 Comeback Stories Every Job Hunter Should Hear and he told us about a book he had written called, Climbing Rejection Mountain (not yet available) about persevering in acting despite the ‘No’s’.
In addition to our pre-show conversation with Nick Wyman, there was interaction between the restaurant folks and the performers during the play. At one point Bryan Cranston quipped to the boyfriend at the table next to us, “YOU seem to be having a good time tonight!” Not sure if that was an adlib or regular feature but it was a riot.
5) The View from The Seats: And what about our worry that we might be looking at the back of the performers?
While there were a few scenes where an actor was turned away from me, there were far more where I had a chance to look into a performer’s face and see the emotion up close and personal. Late in the show Bryan Cranston’s character is so overwhelmed with emotion that he could barely complete his thoughts. As I looked into the face of this middle-aged man, so upset and watched him struggle to speak, I just felt sorry for him. I forgot I was watching a play.
If you get a chance to see Network, I highly recommend it. And if you get a chance for the on-stage seating, your experience will be different than mine, but I’ll bet it’s unique, memorable and delicious.