Theater is one of the most entertaining and moving types of art. Every aspect from the set design to the story line is steeped in cultural significance that isn’t lost on the audience. Theater is also a very primitive art in the best sense of the word.
Sadly, playhouses aren’t as common today as they have been in decades past. However, there are examples of places where the opposite is true. In some areas like the San Diego theater community plays are thriving, despite the fact that movies have become the most popular storytelling mechanism. This points to the fact that people still have an undeniable connection to live theatrical performances.
Theater Taps Into Our Primal Storytelling Instincts
For thousands of years man did not tell its story on a movie screen. Long before the written word, bards shared epics, historical accounts and personal stories with an intimate audience.
The stories told by people on stage were critical in passing down culture that couldn’t be recorded. It connected people to the past in a visceral way before photographs and film could archive events. Live storytelling is still such a powerful way to tap into people’s deep desires and emotions that Harvard Business Review has noted entrepreneurs need to have a self-story that they tell well.
Theater Makes a Personal Connection
As the professors at Harvard have found, in-person storytelling makes a connection with the audience. A night at the theater is an experience that people won’t soon forget. That’s because live performances make a personal connection in a way that can’t be done through movies or even books. It involves real people, playing out scenarios in a real way right before your eyes.
Theater is a connection that only humans share. No other animal species shares experiences and stories in this way. It makes us more self-aware, and the human condition comes to life in an impactful way. No matter how technology progresses, theater reminds us there’s a human being behind every work of art.
Theater is a True Cultural Experience
Unlike movies, theater is very experiential. You are sharing the experience with others in the audience and the actors on stage. The event is taking place in a public sphere, quite possibly a historic building or central location in the city. The intermission encourages theater-goers to interact and share their thoughts on the play.
It should also be noted that theater is a cultural experience that happens all over the world. From the savannahs of Africa to the French National Theatre in Paris, people gather together to watch compelling stories acted out on a stage. Plays can also help us identify with people from different cultures and backgrounds when we see their stories played out in person.
Theater Serves as Self-Reflection
As alluded to above, theater is a powerful source of self-reflection. For decades, theater has been an outlet for examining social conditions and how they impact us individually and as a country or culture. It can turn a mirror on society as a whole and the current events that affect our every daily lives. Plays are also an educational tool that can teach us about ourselves and the human experience in general.
Theater is a Creative Outlet
All art forms have a way of inspiring other types of art. Case in point, a book inspired Grammy-winner Sean Pallitroni to write a musical score, which then became a popular YouTube video of Pallitroni playing the music. The same is true for theater.
Artwork has been the inspiration for plays like Sunday in the Park With George and the more recent Red. Countless movies have been made based off of stage plays. There are even movies about making plays — for example Waiting for Guffman.
Theater is a creative outlet that both draws from other types of art and serves as a source of inspiration.