Friday, September 18, 2009

What will turning out The Light mean to Broadway?

I'll admit it. I was a soap watcher. My grandmother watched Guiding Light, my mother watched Guiding Light, and after getting hooked on it the summer I was 16 and down with mono, I watched it.

Oh, how I groaned at the absurd stories. How I would take breaks from it, vowing never to watch again, only to take a glimpse one day and be hooked anew. During college, I missed it during the year, but would catch it in the summer, watching it before going in to my restaurant job. After college, I would tape it on the VCR, watching it at night. Even The Husband got a little hooked, though he won't admit it.

But soaps are expensive to produce and it didn't have enough viewers, a refrain I predict will continue until "then there were none."

But today, as the curtain drops on Guiding Light, I wonder what this will mean for Broadway. GL was one of three New York based soaps. They drew in professional stage actors who wanted a steady paycheck, and fed them back to the stage, as the actors took leaves of absence from the soap in order to star in a play. For young actors, they were the ultimate summer stock, grooming them for the stage.

Soaps have been this quietly subversive force in our culture. Amidst all the multiple divorces, far-out story lines, people coming back from the dead, there were story lines about AIDS, abortion, homosexuality. This wasn't HBO. These were shows playing to middle-American housewives.

Goodbye Otalia, the Four Musketeers, Nick, Dolly. Goodbye to the marvelous scenery-chewing Buzz. Goodbye Cedars. And the Bauer barbecue.

Goodbye Old Friend.

1 comment:

Elizabeth J. Barrett said...

I started watching All My Children in college. It was on the big screen at the Union and a large group of students would eat lunch and watch and laugh a lot. AMC was hilarious to us. I didn't watch for many years, but tuned in again at some point to find that I was drawn into the story when watching it alone, feeling sad when a character's husband died and worrying about my own sweetie. It seems that I needed to watch it with a group to keep my distance!