I have been on the edges of a theatrical life for a long time now. I am currently in rehearsals for a one-hour show http://bit.ly/SHREW at the Minnesota Fringe Festival, and I have been reflecting on what it is about theater that attracts me so much.
I don’t necessarily want to tell you my whole story, but let me put it into one sentence: Outgoing young child, unpopular adolescent, awkward teen, more quiet and shy as the days went by (except when I couldn’t stop talking), got pulled into an improv show by well meaning adults, life has never been the same. I wrote my first theater piece for that improv show, went on to direct 20+ shows at the high school level, became a high school theater arts teacher, morphed into an English teacher who performs once in a while.
Ok, that was two sentences, and it’s not even close to getting to the heart of what I am going to tell you about. I think that becoming involved in theater, majoring in theater, all of that has been good and helped me to open up, but more important have been my experiences of theater as an audience member.
The times in my life that I have been the lowest, when I have been thoroughly thrown for a loop by, say, the death of a loved one or by other extreme stresses in life… those have been the times that I have found myself seeking out theater.
To go and see a live play, whether the play is “good” or not, there is something special about the energy that is generated by actors. I have never been disappointed in live theater, because that energy is there. If there is another source for that energy, I haven’t found it, and frankly, I don’t believe it exists.
One could argue that performing theater, taking on the role of the creator, is the same energy, but I say the experience of the energy is different. If you’re in the audience, you can just take that energy, and if you are tapped out, you suddenly find yourself in another world. This world is special, perhaps, because distractions are not allowed. It’s not okay to check your phone or text anyone, the play needs your complete attention.
Now it might seem obvious to you, but there is something, too, about the alternate universe that is created right before your eyes. I love that. I have written before about how we see this phenomenon in movies, but I love to see it happen live.
Now I’m not saying that everyone goes to theater for this soothing elixir of energy and intelligence, but surely some are there for that. I have talked to many people who credit theater with saving them somehow, or, more often, with unlocking their true natures. I know for me that there is something there – a source of energy, stamina, and joy. I will continue to participate in theater, and I take comfort in knowing that no matter how low I may feel, I know where to go to feel better.
Fringe Festival is coming up, and I look forward to being in a play and taking in as much of the other shows as I can, and I hope you will too.