SOME THOUGHTS ON THE VALUE OF THEATER
Theater can be a truly live event that generates communion and catharsis in a real, physical space. This makes it inherently more dramatic and transformative than other forms--a film may be many things, but it is always constrained by the screen it is projected on, and is always nothing more than dead light pouring into or from a two dimensional frame. Books transport us, if we participate in them, but they are dead words printed on pages and carry with them only a solitary experience--valuable and stirring for some, but lacking the community and alchemy of live performance in a living space. Only the living theater can fulfill the promise of an art that fully ennobles us.
In our world we crave connection desperately, and seek it everywhere--we're constantly yearning for that communion which is the central miracle of theater, and which theater was created out of human psychology to fill. We forget that religion is theater's bastard step-child, using the tools and techniques born of storytelling, oratory and mimesis to forge a community together. We forget that the act of truly connecting to one another is only possible in person...and this limits the number of arts that can aspire to the most human experiences to the live arts, and theater is the greatest of these for its ability to hold a mirror up to life and shine a light of inquiry through it at the same time.
Theater exists only as long as it is in motion, and then no more. Each moment is a death, and that process mirrors our natural processes, and makes theater the most fragile of the great arts...but it is also what makes it the least commodifiable, and as the corporate age grows stronger and more prevalent, this lack of commodification will become recognized as its greatest strength.
The value of theater is the value of the human soul—the experience of theater is the most profoundly articulated and artistically mediated way we have to express what it is to be human in our time. It may reach less people than other forms, but it reaches them deeper—because it is fleeting and mortal, because it is happening live in the air, and because it is a collaboration between all the humans present in its creation on that evening.
There is no greater task, no larger duty, and no more difficult calling than to aspire to create theater that fulfills this great promise. It's value is intrinsic and limitless, and we will be judged by our ability to live up to its execution.
(To read others writing about the value of theater today, click here.)