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An Artist’s Guide To Appreciating Other People’s Art by Matt Lyle

If you go see a show in DFW chances are you will sit beside an artist from the community. All of us see a lot of theater. In some ways, it’s our CE (continuing education). We also go to support our fellow artists, check out the competition and simply because we like to see theater. Though, it’s hard to turn off our critical eye and just enjoy a show. We’re all chasing perfection and want to be the first to catch it.

There’s recent development in DFW that I couldn’t be more thrilled about. Work by local playwrights is being produced all over the place. Occasionally, a play by a Texas artist pops ups, but what’s so exciting is the sheer volume. Theatre Three, Kitchen Dog Theater, Circle Theater currently have local plays running. Dallas Theater Center and Second Thought Theater recently closed shows by Dallas playwrights. The Dallas Children’s Theater, Theater Three and Second Thought have new works coming up later in the season and there’s always something new and wild happening at the Ochre House. I’m sure I’ve missed some. Dallas is growing up y’all! And it means playwrights get to see work from their peers. Read how cosmically famous Dallas playwright Matt Lyle sees theater. 


Sorry, what’s that? No, I’m afraid this seat next to me is taken by my date, my Ego. Can’t you see him? He’s at least four times my size and is wearing a beret. How could you miss the razor sharp teeth? But this seat is free. You’re welcome.

I know what you’re thinking and yes I am locally renowned playwright Matt Lyle- Please don’t make a scene. When I attend the theatre I like to blend in as best I can… And you may be thinking, “Why are you at someone else’s play? You’re an expert and probably spend the whole time viciously picking at every flaw!”. No. That’s not me at all. I love when other people try to make plays. I really do. I’m not the one who can’t focus on anyone else’s work for 10 minutes without thinking about how it reflects on my work. That’s my date here whose talons are simply shredding this armrest…

Quite the critic, this one. Not. Easily. Impressed. He thinks that if he allows himself to be impressed by someone else’s art that it will send me into a death spiral of shame and self-doubt. Silly Ego! That’s probably not true.

Ooh, the lights are lowering. It’s starting. I love this part: the audience, the anticipation, the ritual of the blackout just before the stage is illuminated to begin the stor- Hello, sight line issues. That guy has no energy. She has a weird accent. What’s that guy supposed to be? A judge? An old lady? Has anyone heard the term PACE? But so far so good. Could be worse.

What’s that, Ego? I’m not sure what they’re talking about either. I’ve been a little busy since the lights came up. You want me to cross my arms? Will do!

And this playwright. Local guy. Nice guy. Really. Very… earnest. Takes himself a little too seriously. Not sure who he thinks he is still writing plays. I know he’s seen my work, and yet he keeps plugging away for some reason. Anyway, super nice guy- DUDE! YOU CAN MAKE EXPOSITION ENTERTAINING!! IT CAN BE DONE!!

Hey, here’s a tip. I like to sit in the back and on the side so I can exit quickly after the curtain and then Facebook Message any of the artists I knew and say that I hate that I couldn’t stay to see them in the lobby after the show. I had to run out because [insert reason]. But they were so good in the show! It’s so much easier to say that stuff when they can’t see my face.

All in all, though, this seems to be one of the playwright’s better efforts. I mean it’s no Hamlet. Not that I’m crazy about Hamlet (I have thoughts…) but you know what I mean.

I’m pretty sure several people here recognize me. Excuse me, people are chuckling at something.

(Courtesy laugh.) (Courtesy laugh.)

Can’t be seen not chuckling at another playwright’s show! Well, I watched him watch my last play and he wasn’t laughing at ANYTHING. And it was FUNNY. Everyone was LAUGHING. Not CHUCKLING. But I’ll be the bigger man-

One sec, my Ego is… Say that again, Ego? Yeah, they do seem to be chuckling a lot, but… Nooo, that wasn’t a full audience laugh. That was just a full audience courtesy chuckle. 200 people chuckling sounds like a real laugh- There’s another courtesy chuckle… and another…and another. These are some VERY courteous people. Yeah, they’re probably all related to someone involved in the show. That explains all the… the… courtesy… guffaws. That guy is courtesy slapping his knee… Is it hot in here? Is anyone else having trouble breathing?! AHHH!!!!!! Oh – Oh- AHHHH!!!!!

Anyway, this is real low brow stuff. Real lowest common denominator humor. Anyone could do this. ANYONE. And he usually writes like, sober, lyrical meditations on, like, suffering or something. More like a sober meditation on his own butt. Now he thinks he’s a comedy writer? He calls this satire? Dude. Read some Swift, amIright? You’re correct, Ego, all this laughter IS hollow somehow. The spectacle of all these people who REALLY SEEM TO BE ENJOYING THEIR NIGHT AT THE THEATRE is… hollow somehow. It’s Theatre, people! You’re not supposed to enjoy it! WHAT. IS. HAPPENING?!?


What’s that? No. I’m fine. Totally cool. Coolio. I do this at every show. It’s part of my artistic temperament, I guess. I rock and mumble and dig my nails into my palms until they bleed and then I go home and when my wife asks me how the show was I casually but incessantly rip it to shreds all night long. Boy, she is going to wish she never asked!

Ooooh! I would not have ended Act 1 like that. I mean has this guy never heard of ending something with a button? You know what a button is? Little industry term. It’s a perfectly timed and delivered joke or line that ends something on a high note. Yep. This guy doesn’t know how to do that. Nope. No clue.