My spirit is best when I am teaching theater, when I’m watching theater, or when I am in the presence of something theatrical. Even when I don’t like what I’m reading, seeing, or experiencing, my spirit is still more alive.
I always tell my students that the best theater is not always the piece that made you walk away and say, “Gosh, that was amazing.” It is often the theater that made you mad, or frustrated, or more in love. It’s the theater that made you feel more alive – thus not dead, and it tied you with some other human’s experience/spirit and that person may be, in fact, dead, but their spirit/experience/words are not – and that is immortal.
The attractive thing, to me, as an educator and a theater artist is that not only is the spirit immortal in this art form, but that each experience of the words is immortal in the memory of the person who experienced it.
That ephemeral/fleeting moment.
No two performances are alike and the audience that sits there will have their own experience to share when they leave the performance that may be different from the person sitting next to them. Then someone who’s already seen the performance can come back to see that same performance and have several other experiences that will be wholly different because maybe the power goes out during the performance or an actor drops a line. That will change the entire spirit of the words and makes the going of theater exciting and addictive, especially when the spirit of the words is strong.
“Why theater?” Why should I blog on an art form that is the imaginary invalid always threatening to die under the army of the Internet, television, movies, PS3s, Netflix, you tubes…you get the point…
Well, I can’t fully answer that question without cycling back to my preface of our need for immortality, and the fact that it’s an insult to my spirit, that loves this ephemeral art form.
But, I’ll start to leave you with this quote from the opening of Frank M. Whiting’s text AN INTRODUCTION TO THE THEATER.
“Were the theater a mere matter of entertainment, such a question would be difficult to answer, but good theatre is much more than entertainment. In its periods of greatness its playwrights, actors, directors, and designers have sought for the meaning and beauty of existence with the same passion and sincerity that has characterized the work of great scientists, philosophers, and theologians, for in its essence the art of the theatre rests on a common foundation with all learning: on man’s capacity to explore, wonder, and reflect.”
This single word reflect has reminded me of the power of theater. While sitting with my father’s body in September of 2011, the only thing I had left of his life were my reflections on my memories and the only way I know how to honor that is through using those reflections through my chosen art form: He lives while I live and theater is the only art form of all the art forms that tells stories in an alive/present/immediate way.
I need that right now, and I know that is the answer to that question I’m trying to conclude this lecture with: Why theater? Well, because we all need to feel alive. Whether it is through our reflections or something else. If it is our reflections, then those are not that much different from the reflections and the needs of other people. The only difference is that some of us have the desire to create those reflections and some of us have the desire to watch or experience those reflections.