“Theatre’s the best, isn’t it? You go and you sit in the dark for two hours … and you just escape. Instead of thinking about your own childhood problem, you watch a childhood fairy tale come to life before your eyes. Instead of stressing about your own relationships, you watch two people from different parts of the world fall in love and make beautiful music together. Instead of worrying about the news of today, you hear about the news of yesterday, delivered by overly attractive, hyper-acrobatic, 35-year-old 15-year-olds.”
So said Neil Patrick Harris at the 2012 Tony Awards, and I have to agree with him, so I am here to list the reasons why you – yes, you, on the other side of the screen with your toe dipping into a new fandom (be very careful; the edges are particularly slippery) – should attend a theatre show this year.
Of course, he was referring specifically to musical theatre, whereas I will be referring to all theatre, but I find the reasons apply across the spectrum anyway, so let’s begin, shall we?
Reason Number One: Nothing beats a live performance.
I doubt there are any words in the English language (and unfortunately, that’s the only language I’m confident enough with to try) that will allow me to explain this statement as coherently and accurately as I would like, but I’ll try to anyway. When actors are playing out an emotional scene – whatever that emotion may be – it affects everyone around them.
When watching a film or a TV show, we connect emotionally with the characters – if they’re skilled enough at their trade, we laugh, cry and fight along with them (okay, fighting’s more spiritual than literal, but the ‘rule of three’ felt like it should apply there, and you see my point). But, remember, you’re getting that emotion second-hand. That scene was filmed months, maybe even years ago.
In a live performance, it’s happening right there in front of you. The emotion charges the room, and echoes off everyone in the audience to create an atmosphere that could not be recreated by the best production team if they tried. And they have tried, as we’ve mentioned in the past, and they do very well, but it’s not the same.
Reason Number Two: It’s a great way of meeting new people.
Theatre performances tend to be less well advertised than movies (obviously, there are some exceptions), so when you go to see a performance, chances are that everyone in the room is interested in the story or the characters, and not just because it’s ‘the hot thing to see’.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that reason – it introduces a lot of people to genres or fandoms that they would otherwise have missed, and that’s a fantastic thing. But there is a slightly higher chance at a live performance that the person sitting next to you will be as emotionally invested as you are, especially since Reason Number One still applies.
When we are emotional, we seem to automatically reach out to the people around us – I think it’s something to do with biology; when we’re emotional, we’re vulnerable, so we seek protection from the rest of the tribe, or … whatever. Whether you’re on your own, or with other people, turning to someone in the interval or after the performance and gushing about it is very likely to be well received – and you might just make a new friend out of the deal.
Likewise, the theatre can be a great way of reconnecting with old friends. I don’t know about you, but I have friends who I love dearly, but have little in common with anymore. In the past, that may not have been the case – we had school, mutual friends, common fandoms – but now, conversation can get a little stale, so go to the theatre!
You spend time together, have something to talk about afterwards, and – best of all – you’ve got at least a few months off before the guilt of ‘we said should do this again sometime but I haven’t even considered it since’ kicks in.
Reason Number Three: It supports your local theatres. In general, theatres – in small towns, at least – tend to get the short end of the budget stick, which means that, for a lot of them, the only thing keeping them open is ticket sales.
And don’t forget – supporting your local theatre also means supporting your local actors, costume designers, set designers and stage managers, as well as the amateur dramatic groups that theatres so often host.
Reason Number Four: It’s fun! As the opening quote says, it allows you to escape, watch someone else’s life for a while. It’s like going to watch a really good movie, except the action is right there in front of you, and if you hang around the stage door afterwards, you might get a chance to meet the actors and thank them in person (although, even at the stage door, normal etiquette applies, Wanderers!).
So the next time you’re out and about, find your local theatre and find out what’s on at the moment. Then buy a ticket and try something new. It might just surprise you!
Roxanne Williams (needs to go to the theatre more often herself)