This week we’ve been talking about the value of Spanish entertainment for your language-learning journey and one of the specific options we talked about was live entertainment such as concerts, theater productions, and improv shows. Since we know this option is one you may be interested in but a bit more apprehensive about, today Dani’s sharing her experience of going to a play here in Spain to assure you it’s not as overwhelming as you may think. Enjoy!
Why go to a play in Spanish in the first place
Since I live in Spain, you might think that I don’t necessarily need to go out of my way to incorporate language-learning. Although I’d like to say that’s completely true, the reality is that much of my life is still lived in English and so it’s important to me to engage with Spanish-language entertainment to feel truly connected to the culture. When I’m watching the same TV shows, listening to the same radio stations, and reading the same books as Spaniards I simply feel like I’m “doing life abroad right.”
Going to a theater production had been on my list since I first studied abroad in 2011 and I have to admit it took me quite a while to get around to. I first went to a local (Granada) production in which a friend of a friend was performing in 2015 and then the professional production of Priscilla: Reina del Desierto at the end of 2016, as described here. Subconsciously, I think I put it off because I feared it would be over my head but realistically, since I’m used to watching TV and movies without pausing and rewinding it, it was not all that much different. However, it was a lot of fun!
Choosing a show and purchasing tickets
I have to admit, I received the tickets to go to a Spanish-language play as a Christmas present, but my husband assures me that seeking out information, show times, and tickets was a smooth process. While you ,of course, go into a theater in-person if you’re looking for something in your local city, my husband was easily able to find everything he needed online, simply Googling “Barcelona teatro”). This is ideal as, like us, you may want to purchase tickets for a different destination you will be visiting on a holiday trip. In our case, we were visiting Barcelona at New Year’s and it felt like the perfect opportunity to take in a bit more of culture on our trip. The official website of the theater he chose, Teatre Barcelona, was used to research the different shows that were playing and tickets were purchased through the website (though technically through their proticketing.com page). He was able to print out the tickets in advance, turning them into a nicely-presented Christmas gift.
Preparing for and arriving at the show
Honestly, going to a play didn’t require any more preparation than going to a movie, sporting event, or anything other activity in Spain. If you feel so inclined, you could read up about the play you are going to see in order to have an outline in mind of what will happen if you’re worried about being able to follow along. However, we didn’t do any more than read the synopsis provided by the theater.
We made sure to check the best route to get to the theater and factor in extra time in case public transportation was running behind. Because we enjoy making a big deal out of activities like these and turning the night into ‘an event’ we got dressed up and a bit fancier than normal but I wouldn’t say this is necessary. Since we were in a big city, it’s common for people to dress well anyways so I doubt we saw any jeans-and-t-shirt outfits but nice jeans or other trousers and a blouse or polo were just as common attire choices as dresses and button-downs, like we wore.
We arrived approximately twenty minutes before show time and enjoyed standing out front taking in the ambiance for a bit. In doing so, we saw a few different groups of people meeting up for the play as well and took a photo for one of the groups, who in turn took a photo of us out front as well.
Enjoying the show
Once the play got started, I almost forgot we were in Spain and listening in Spanish. Since the thought of going to a live entertainment event in a foreign language can feel overwhelming, I think it’s easy to overlook just how much the experience of going to a play is visual! Even if you couldn’t understand the language at all, you would be able to follow along to a certain degree and so the visual aspect can easily fill in the gaps in your understanding if you already have a decent level of Spanish.
Our choice of show was probably also helpful in this way—since we had chosen an originally Australian musical, the show was full of English-language songs we knew from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. The plot and characters themselves were over-the-top (as one would expect from a play about drag queens on tour), which also made following along easier. I would definitely recommend seeing a play you’ve already seen in English or seeing something new, like we did, that is comical with characters who have big personalities.
This made the atmosphere in the theater most enthusiastic and fun. Some people were singing along throughout and everyone was in good spirits and smiling when we took our intermission break. We were also feeling festive and in the mood to enjoy so we even decided to treat ourselves to a glass of champagne! As you would expect, other beverages including water and soft drinks were also available but champagne seemed to be a favorite and seeing so many theater-goers around us in a celebratory mood around New Year’s only added to the great time we had.
Have you been to a play in a foreign language as well? What was your experience like?