With the world on high alert due to our slowly liquifying bodies, many countries are starting to lay down what can only be described as gentle martial law. In the U.S., crowds of over 10 people are now prohibited -- so that includes all public events except for college open mics. But many TV shows with live audiences have decided that the show must go on, just now without half the sound stage filled with whooping fans to tell the people at home how to emote. And the results have been ... mixed.
It's a great reminder than dealing with an audience for performers is a skill on its own, something you can't immediately unlearn as you hold for applause breaks that never come like a struggling stand-up comedian testing out a new five minutes on the concept of eating ham. But you know who doesn't have this problem? Whose performers have been unfazed by the lack of adoring crowds, who have perfected their craft in the crucible of the dramatic arena? The WWE.
Fans of wrestling have always known that their favorite faux sport has had heels and faces that would not look out of place in a classical Sophocles melodrama. But not only does this lack of massive audiences leave these veiny players unphased, but it's apparently also the key to unlocking their true melodramatic potential. Just look at this tense, layered exchange between noted thespian John Felix Anthony Cena and Windham Lawrence Rotunda on the quiet, deferential stage of Smackdown.
Breathtaking. Without being distracted by the wall of screaming Floridians in the background, one can finally appreciate the approaches both actors take to the scene. Mr. Fiend seems to be favoring the Meisner school of acting, while his counterpart draws more from the interior-focused teachings of the Herbert Berghof Studio, allowing Mr. Cena to truly disappear into his role. But, sadly, what the absence of fans has done for the WWE theatrical performances, it has also done for its wrestling, in that has exposed its the community theater roots.
Turns out that, just like late-night comedians, wrestlers really need their quick bursts of performances to be padded out with some audience reactions to create a natural, not slightly embarrassing flow. Not a problem though. Just skip the actual fights (nobody likes those anyway), have one of the quarantined writers draft a kayfabe King Lear and spend the next two months having wrestlers perform Shakespeare in the Park on the WrestleMania stage.
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