I’ve loved theatre for most of my life. I took my first theatre class when I was eleven, and I was hooked. Ever since, whether I’ve been up on stage or sitting in the audience, I’ve felt like going to the theatre is a magical experience.
I try to get to the theatre many times a year, but it can actually be difficult for me to find companions willing to come along. And even as I keep aging, the average theatre audience (discounting school performances and the huge touring sensations like The Book of Mormon or Wicked) is still older than me. A lot older. And while some of that is undoubtedly because of the sometimes steep price tag on theatre tickets, I don’t think that’s the entire story behind the disinterest.
So without further ado, here is my list of why going to the theatre is AMAZING:
1. Live performance. There’s a certain special energy surrounding a performance that is in the midst of being created. The role of audience member becomes more prominent as your energy can affect the energy of the performers, and vice versa. Strange things, sometimes amazing and sometimes disastrous, can happen in the middle of a live show.
2. Stagecraft. The technical aspects of theatre are flat-out cool. I love looking at the sets, the costume design, and the props. Some of the things that can be done with lighting are fascinating. It’s possible I fell in love with theatre the first day I got to “fly.” (Although actually, I think it was probably a year earlier when I got to do my own lion makeup.)
3. Less predictable. In some ways, plays are similar to movies: they’re both visual mediums of about the same length that tell a story and can use enhancements like special effects and music to enrich the narrative. But plays, by and large, aren’t as formulaic as most Hollywood blockbusters. They experiment with structure. They experiment with plot. And they sometimes use interesting framing devices.
4. More Bechdel test passes. Women talk to other women in plays about something besides a man all the time. It’s almost like there have been plays written in the twenty-first century or something.
5. Meaty themes. Many plays deal with deep and interesting subject matter. Various plays I’ve seen this year have dealt with: the ethics behind cloning; the process of grieving a dead spouse and moving on; dysfunctional families, mental illness, and secrets; feminism; and the sacrifices made in the name of doing what you believe in. To list just a few.
6. Great dialogue. Most plays rely heavily on dialogue to tell their story. And the best writers have it down: Snappy exchanges reminiscent of the screwball comedies of the ‘40s, passionate and hilarious monologues, quirky character tics, the works.
7. Fabulous humor. I laugh more and louder while watching certain plays than doing pretty much anything else. There is a lot of dark humor and dry humor done in the theatre today, as well as more old-school slapstick if that’s your thing.
8. Transformative experiences. When I’ve seen a good play, I walk out of the theatre a different person than when I walked in. I’ve been challenged, I’ve thought about things in a new way, and I’ve often had a very emotional experience.
What has your experience been with theatre? What makes you love it? What has turned you off about it?