Wednesday, March 19, 2008

"What Is The 'Value' Of Theatre?"

"What Is The 'Value' Of Theatre?"

Did you know that today is the International Value of Live Theatre Day?

Well, not because of any proclamation from the United Nations or individual governments around the world. It's because Matt Slayer of Theatreforté has reached around the globe to at least 40 theatre bloggers in Australia, Europe and North America, asking us to join in solidarity today and write about the value that theatre affords individuals who wouldn't typically identify themselves as theatregoers.

My personal value statement regarding theatre has been posted on my home page ever since I began writing Steve On Broadway (SOB) nearly two years ago. And it's relatively simple:

As someone who has been involved in both politics and public relations, it's no wonder I love watching theatre. Good or bad, it's the raw energy of seeing a live performance that gets my adrenaline pumping. From the moment I saw my very first Broadway show (Annie in London in 1979), I was hooked. Now I see as many as 70 shows each year ranging from soaring musicals to two-hander plays. And these eyes just may be in an audience near you!
Whether you identify yourself as a theatregoer or not, I would bet money that you enjoy being entertained. Right? I mean, who doesn't? Entertainment is one of life's greatest pleasures.

Most of us have our own favorite television show. Just about everyone can identify their most beloved film. And a sizeable number of us remain mesmerized by a fascinating book. They all entertain and inform us with their storytelling genius, making our lives a little richer for the experience. In that regard, theatre is in the same league.

But the beauty of live theatre is the communal aspect of the shared entertainment experience. Sure, we can sit down to watch television with our friends, and we can certainly enjoy the same movie with an audience of strangers. But live theatre is the one singular opportunity we have to enjoy the telling of a story that evolves from one night to the next, often due to the audience's response to the magic and artistry being performed live and in front of us.

When I recently saw August: Osage County for my second time, I had an opportunity afterwards to chat with Amy Morton, Rondi Reed and Mariann Mayberry. Separately, each told me how well my audience responded and helped fuel their performances even further. There's an unbelievable amount of power that resides with the audience that simply doesn't exist in television, movies or books.

There's also the air of danger in seeing a live performance. As much as the cast and crew hope and pray nothing goes wrong, the mere possibility that it could simply takes my breath away. And when something indeed happens, such as a missed cue or a flubbed line or a flipped wig, well, isn't that what ultimately transforms our unique experience into something all the more memorable?

Sure, live theatre may be one of the oldest forms of entertainment, but it also remains the most vibrant, innovative and daring.

It's why when given a choice, I'll happily make my way to a live performance any day. There's nothing else quite like it on earth.

UPDATE (March 19, 2008, 4:45 p.m. EDT): It should be noted that the following bloggers around the world are participating in this incredible discussion. I invite you to visit their sites as well to learn what they believe the value of theatre is:
Theater For The Future,
Rat Sass,
Theatre Ideas,
The Next Stage,
Theatre is Territory,
Freedom Spice In the New Mash-Up World,
Mike Daisey,
An Angry White Guy In Chicago,
Bite & Smile,
That Sounds Cool,
A Rhinestone World,
GreyZelda Land,
On Theatre And Politics,
The Devil Vet,
Play Out The Play,
West End Journal
Gratuitous Violins,
Adventures In The Endless Pursuit Of Entertainment

As I learn of other bloggers posting on this topic, I'll add them to this mini-blog roll.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 19 March, 2008, Blogger SarahB said...

Amen and amen! And there is danger in theatre - onstage (last night at the Met!)and off (first preview of Gypsy!). Be careful out there but keep buying tickets!Whew.

At 19 March, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Sarah, Just read through your own posting and can't believe how closely my thoughts paralleled that of another Steve.

While I'm tempted to say "Great minds," I would never deign to besmirch his talent by comparing him with my two cents on the value of theatre.

At 21 March, 2008, Anonymous BwayMagazine said...

Steve, this is another great post. Your blog is fantastic. Sometimes, I feel that the theatre community is more like a monk than a missionary...meaning theatre lovers flock together and do little to bring new people to the experience. Sharing opionions about the larger value of theatre, however personal, is extremely valuable. Thanks again.

At 21 March, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Thanks so much. I appreciate the kind words here as well as at your site. As such, I've now provided a link among my favorite theatre sites.


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