Week 5 Reflective Writing

I don’t think America will ever have a national theater. Yes, theater is popular but it’s not culturally important to everyone. American theater didn’t start until the 1700s because that’s when America was formed. European countries have history that stretches back centuries. America wasn’t as involved in developing theater as England and France were, to some extent we just changed the plays. The article mentions that when America was first founded the culture of the puritans didn’t leave space for theater (source). I think the timeline difference between America and European countries was one aspect, but I also think the structure of the US didn’t allow for theater at least in theaters. The US is huge and for much of history it was hard to travel those long distances. Theater would have been regional, and it would lag behind the expansion west. Until the train and the industrial revolution, it wouldn’t have been easy to bring theater everywhere, or to show one production to a lot of people.

I was surprised to learn America did have a national theater historically, but the fact that it was a Great Depression plan also made sense. Perhaps when theater reopens the government could support theaters, but I feel like that’s not likely. Theater just isn’t important to everyone. It’s also inaccessible to many people. Tickets costs are rising, especially on Broadway and there’s often an idea that regional theater is less good.

I could keep going on but at the end of the day, theater is not universally important in the US. And unless that (or something else) changes we won’t see a national theater. Maybe this is the final point of theater: it started with the Greek’s as a universally loved and subsidized thing, and now many people have never and will never be able to see a live play. Maybe theater will collapse and disappear. Or maybe it means we need to change the theater system.

Week 4 Reflective Writing

I do think there is value in live theater, even with digital content easily available. Theater is a different experience. Watching the show happen with real people, hearing the reactions of other audience members, and even anything that happens to go wrong. They’re all part of going to see a live show. Yes, many stage productions have movie versions but it’s never the same, and the filmed versions of stage productions, like Newsies or Hamilton, the changing camera angles and closeups make it feel like a movie. Theater is dependent on the space it’s in, which is why theaters are so unique, and why historical theaters have survived so long. We know what the Globe theater looked like enough to rebuild it and there are remains of the Greek theaters. I’m not sure exactly what is so special about theater, perhaps it shares a message in a unique way or people are more open to a message they see rather than are told but I don’t think digital content can replace theater, we just need to remind people that theater exists.

I don’t know what the role of theater is now, in 2020. I think when theater can come back, there will be human traits that have been brought to people’s attention, and I think the loss of theater will remind people of its value. I personally don’t see a way for theater to work online. The actors can’t communicate the same way through a screen, and the audience isn’t part of the experience just another participant in a zoom call. Could it still be enjoyable? Maybe. But it’s missing something. UMW performed some segments of their spring show over zoom. I checked it out and I didn’t like it. I couldn’t really tell who was talking to who, or who the characters really were. Some of that is due to the structure UMW decided on since small clips aren’t going to give you complete characterization. But I think some of the issues would hold for a full-length production. On stage, there are cues of who is talking to who, and you can hear where the sound is coming from. Over zoom, you have to see whose mouth is moving or which box has the yellow lines. My experience felt like I had to put in more work to get less when compared to live, staged theater.

Perhaps this closure of the theaters is a good time for outreach and education to encourage people to come to the theater’s when it’s safe. Or maybe it’s a good time to look at the diversity (or lack thereof) on Broadway and the financial barrier theater has. I don’t think theater is doomed to disappear. We’ve been performing stories for centuries and I don’t think this will stop that. I think theater could change due to this, however.  

Word count: 477

Week 3 Reflective Writing

I do think art and theater touch the human soul. In the discussion this week we agreed that theater by definition creates an intellectual response as well as an aesthetic/emotional response. Those two things are such a major part of who we are that I think they could be counted as the human soul. I also think we have art and movies and songs we use to help understand our emotions. I think theater and movies especially show the stories of people who may be in similar situations. Seeing a person go through what one is feeling is so validating and can really help you process and move on with life. Songs can share stories to, although they do so more vaguely and often strongly pulling on emotions. I think hearing someone else feel the same emotion that you are is both very validating and lets us sit in those feelings for a little bit.

The Inland Valley Repertory Theatre discussed that theater specifically creates “empathetic listeners” (article). If theater creates more empathy, it must affect us emotionally. For theater to change people in that way there must be more than just a story. Theater has been around in some for hundreds of years. There must be some value to it. Theater stayed when movies became commonplace. It must hold its own value and be more than just a story.

And like we discussed, theater is different from the movies because you get to see the art and the story coming together. In a way, you’re part of the experience. Hearing the reaction of other audience members, their gasps and cries, it’s part of watching live theater. No two shows will ever be the same because of that ever-changing audience. Only the performing arts do this, and theater is the one that also shares the clearest stories. Theater has a very wide range of content, from comedies to drama, to those that look at social ideas or history. If we couldn’t tell those stories and make people want to see them, those shows wouldn’t be happening and people must go because of the unique experience theater provides.

word count: 358

Week 2 Reflective Writing

Theater is important. The simple fact that it’s lasted so long proves that. The Greek had theater and we have our own version today. Both renditions tell stories and share messages about society at that time. They share what it’s like to be a person in a time and the struggles that being human brings. Theater provides entertainment and a break from the present, but also a look into another life. It helps create connections, between both people and character but also between the people behind the scene. So many stories go into theater. There’s the writer’s input, and the director’s thoughts, and how the actor chooses to play a certain scene. All of this coalesces into a single character who shares their story and often their deep secrets and emotions. The audience is there for a single purpose which is to watch and listen, and if they want, take something from the time spent there.

We like stories and theater provides that in a very immersive and low effort way. I think that low effort component is part of what keeps theater going. The whole story is provided and sometimes now, surrounds you completely. Movies and tv tell stories, yes, but they don’t have the same atmosphere or the transportation to the time and place. The magic of the lighting dimming and the curtain rising is something unique to theater. Theater has the ability to bring us together which is something that is always needed across all times.

Word count: 250

Week 1

I have a lot of exposure to theater which is something I’m really thankful for. I got interested in theater when Hamilton came out and it got me curious about other musicals. A few years after that I joined my high school’s theater program and I fell in love. There was such a supportive community and something about the environment just felt safe. I was able to be part of this group while also getting to be as outspoken as I was comfortable. I think having a space I felt good in and where I was good at something was beneficial for my social life and my self-confidence and overall helped me grow.

I’ve met such a range of people through theater because it has something for everyone. There are kids I met and stories I have been exposed to that I never would have though of without theater. In February, I went to see Spring Awakening at the Roundhouse theater with a couple of friends and it was an amazing experience that 14-year-old me would never have imagined. It was just two of my friends and me. We wanted to go see this show, so we all got tickets and carpooled up to Bethesda. It was actually one of the last things I did before lock down actually and I’m happy I got to go.

The theater teacher would pick the two shows we did every year and it was a decently wide range. My senior year we did A Midsummer Night’s Dream and were going to do How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying (this got cancelled due to covid). We did Fiddler on the Roof, and Macbeth, and Noises Off. I might not have personally enjoyed some of the shows, but they challenged me in different ways. I know the actors found Shakespeare plays very different than modern musicals for obvious reason. As a tech, I got to play around with the show and what the script gives me and what the other tech departments need. It was always interesting to me how much goes in behind the scenes. There is so much planning and design and we were just high school students.

I’ve learned theater skills, like reading through scripts and light and sound design, of course but those were never the focus to me and honestly, they’re not what I’m taking with me from the experience. I learned what a good community is like, how to push my limits, and how to manage my time better. The friends I made through theater were so much more constant than other because we all had a common goal and would be working together during rehearsals. There were those moments of panic when everything is going wrong and the feeling of success after opening night. I’m not saying it was perfect because theater kids are dramatic and there was always something going on, but it was fun and that was enough.

Word count: 495