Why Don't You Go to Theater? A Recap

By Lauren Glass, '13

At last week’s Creative Cultural Exchange event, I gleaned some interesting insight on what makes theater, well… theater. 

There to join the discussion were Kevin Moore (Producing Artistic Director, Human Race Theatre), David Brush (former executive director of Encore Theater Company), Kevin Mayes (founder and current board member of the Bailiwick Chicago Theater Company), and Jason Najjoum (Producer Director, New York Theatre Barn).

Since the title of the event was “Why don’t you go to theater?” Let’s start by asking the counterintuitive: why do you go to theater?

“It is that living, breathing experience that I don’t find anywhere else. When I am 10 feet away from that actor when he is having an emotional experience, it gets me more involved… it is the one thing that truly brings me in, engages me, and makes me respond.” That was Kevin Moore’s answer.

Kevin continued to explain how theatre is a cycle of response between actors and audience. The audience responds to the actors’ performance, and the actors respond to that, changing the performance as needed and the cycle continues. It becomes a human and customized experience.

And he makes a good point. The live element of anything, whether it is a play, a sporting event, or a concert brings that human element to the art, allowing us to form a connection with the artist and the art form. Having that heightened sensitivity causes both the audience and the performers to be more responsive and empathetic to each other.

But at a live theater performance, you aren’t just connecting with the performers; you’re connecting with the rest of the audience, too:

“It’s a shared experience you have with other people, which is something in this digital age we have less and less and is becoming more important,” said Kevin Mayes.

Kevin compared this phenomenon to the same experience you have when attending a live sporting event, “…part of the excitement is being a part of the crowd, and feeling the energy that is all around you.”

Jason, comparing theater to a sporting event as well, explained that audiences are captivated by the unpredictability of live performance, “they never know what’s going to happen next, they’re always on the edge of their seat,” he said.

There’s an allure to knowing anything unplanned could happen, especially if it’s when something goes wrong. I can vouch for this personally as I’m reminded of the actor devouring Spiderman musical. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve heard say that they’d love to go see it just in the hope to witness one of those newsworthy stunts gone awry.

But as referenced before, these are all aspects that can be found at any live event, not just theater. While these are certainly all major draws to the theater experience, theater is still nothing without its heart and soul: the element of storytelling.

“I think that ultimately we are story tellers, and that’s what we do: tell great stories,” said Kevin Mayes.

And he’s right. The live aspect of theater may be what keeps us there, but we go because we’re driven to feed our imagination. We go to experience a story.

Now that we’ve explored the reasons to go to the theater, I’ll pose the next question to you: Why don’t you go to theater?

The next and final discussion in this series will be on the poetry scene in Dayton and will be held Tuesday April 2, 7 p.m. in ArtStreet Studio C, in conjunction with the University of Dayton’s LitFest. For more information about events at ArtStreet, visit www.udayton.edu/artstreet.

Lauren Glass is a senior at the University of Dayton, where she is studying journalism. Currently working as a social media assistant for ArtStreet, she enjoys music, writing, and photography.

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