So we have the movies, television and of course the internet complete with live streaming. There are festivals, concerts and the list goes on, sometimes it seems like all the world really is a stage, but for all that I still don’t think that there’s any entertainment that beats a night at the theater.
Why? It’s hard to quantify but part of it is the intimacy. Films are made for an audience of millions, television for anything from hundreds of thousands upwards but even the biggest theater can only seat a few thousand and around the country there are multitudes of tiny venues; school halls, church halls and community centers. The performance is live, put on just for you the audience of the night, and even if you go to see the same play three times, every one will be in some way a unique experience.
Even the smallest and most humble of performances carries something of a sense of occasion. And so it should. It’s not just the actors on the stage that make the event happen. There’s a whole team working behind the scenes to get a production live. They’re responsible for the costume, the stage set design, props, special effects and maybe music too. Let’s not forget the prompt, sat in the wings ready to cue some poor frozen actor who’s momentarily forgotten his lines. There’s make-up to consider and don’t forget the sound production and lights.
There’s so much that goes into making a play happen, so many people who invest part of themselves into those few transient hours that it’s really no surprise that there’s an energy in live theater that you’ll never find at even the biggest Oscar winning film.
When you go to the theater, you’re part of the performance too. Any actor will tell you that on a good night the interaction between audience and performers makes the evening flow. Another time the audience is cold, unreceptive and try as they might, the folks up on the stage just can’t bring them to life.
So, next time you’re planning an evening, consider something you might not have done for a while. Forget the blockbuster, and please don’t let inertia keep you in your chair while you tell yourself that when you can see the best in the world from the comfort of your own home there’s no point in leaving your home.
Go to the theater. Hit Broadway or support a local amateur production. Who knows, that rather captivating young actor you see might one day be one of the leading lights of this fascinating world. You might admire a clever set, put together on a minimal budget and be seeing the early work of someone who will one day be behind the scene star of set design.
Dress up, make it an occasion, clap loudly, laugh at the jokes and maintain a respectful silence for the moments of high drama. However good or bad the production turns out to be it will be unique, you’ll have been there and you’ll be helping to keep arts alive.