My Life, the Theater, and Other Tragedies by Allen Zadoff
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
My Life, Theater, and Other Tragedies is the first book I've ever seen about technical theater, so of course I had to pick it up!
I was really glad to see someone tackle the subject, and even happier when I read the author's bio and saw that he was in theater himself. I did technical theater in high school (I'm now pursuing stage management as my career), and it completely defined my high school life. Zadoff really hits the nail on the head with how clique-ish tech theater is for kids--the inside jokes and the rules of being of the "techies," not to mention that most of the technical reference were spot on and I think easy to understand for an outsider.
Aside from just a cool portrayal of high school theater, the story follows the romance of your Average Joe techie, Adam, who has a crush on an actress named Summer. It's a bit of a Romeo and Juliet romance because--gasp!--a techie can't date an actor! Back in high school, this was serious stuff, guys! Actors and techies are like different species! So Adam has to face excommunication from his fellow techies if he ever wants to be with Summer. A bit corny, but I found it hilariously true.
Another challenge Adam faces is to make his mark on his high school's theater, but the rich and privileged lighting designer Derek is always trying to steal his spotlight (excuse the pun.) I found this plot realistic, too. The same way the same pool of actors always get the leads, the same technicians tend to get the best jobs. Adam's artistic journey was portrayed well and the ultimate product of the show is something that I'd actually love to see.
So far I've done nothing but praise the book, so why the three stars? I'll admit it: this is gimmicky. Theater is my life and I got every inside joke Zadoff packed in, but I'm not sure anyone who didn't do theater in high school would care for this book. The characters were pretty thin. For Adam, it was okay that he was just your average socially awkward teenage boy because it made you want to root for him, but his love interest and rival didn't have much to them. There was also this whole backstory about Adam's father dying in a way that lead Adam to be afraid of the dark. The fear of the dark is relevant to his work in lighting, but otherwise, this just irked me. Of course Adam is socially awkward because his dad's dead. It's okay that Adam doesn't go out a lot because his dad's dead. Adam can't do that, his dad's dead! You catch my drift? The story could have worked out exactly the same way without this subplot.
Regardless, I breezed through this book and laughed on almost every page. If you are or were ever a theater kid, it's definitely worth the read.
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