In one of my closing missives to the theater group last spring, I included a photo of a column a friend (thanks Liz C.) sent me from an airplane. The article regaled the reader with an array of mental health benefits associated with regular cultural engagements (like the theater). These benefits include staving off depression and reducing the rate of cognitive decline. You can read a snippet of the article below.
This is OUTSTANDING news and is some major upside to this frequent theater attendee’s brain. However this is an effect of attendance, but does not answer the question: Why do we GO to see LIVE theater? This was the question that was pinballing around my head while writing about our ambitious 2019/2020 line up. We have a lot on offer and I worry about overwhelming people. So I thought it might be useful to allocate some of my hard-fought theater attending brain cells to answering the question.
Mid-line-up message crafting I snuck out for a haircut at my favorite corner salon. While having my scraggly summer locks snipped I flipped through a magazine to serendipitously stumble upon some great white way stage actors answering this very question. I love it when answers to questions bobbing in my brain just get delivered coincidentally onto my lap.
Here is what some of them had to say:
Phoebe Waller-Bridge – Playwright and star of Fleabag “People say: “I should see more theater.” As if it’s a boring thing you have to do like going to the dentist. But it’s meant to be good for our soul.”
Bryan Cranston – you know who he is. “The theater allows you to share a visceral experience among strangers as you go through a metamorphosis.”
Kelli O’Hara – you know who she is. “I think the Great American Playwright is often writing about the things that they aren’t allowed to talk about in their own homes.” says O’Hara who sees theater as a type of therapy.” People go and wonder why they have these guttural reactions, why their heart just bursts.”
Jeremy Pope – many of us are seeing him in Ain’t Too Proud soon. “I love when the theater has opportunities to heal and to dissect the stories for what you will, not offering you the answers.”
Ethan Hawke – You know him too. “If someone saw me in Henry IV it means a lot more to than if they saw Training Day. We were together for Henry IV.” says Hawke referring to intimacy with his audiences, screen versus stage. “They might’ve seen it the night I had a cold, or maybe it was New Year’s Day and I was hungover. “
Good for the soul. Shared experience. Metamorphosis. Guttural reactions. Opportunities to heal. Intimacy. These are all very heady reasons to attend live theater. To me, it all boils down to connecting. Connecting with emotions that we may not naturally encounter as we go about our normal days. Connecting with others as you share the experience of watching a new story unfold. Connecting with friends on another level as they ugly cry or delight in laughter just two seats away from you. Connecting with parts of ourselves we may not even know we had. Connecting with the actors and musicians as they do what they do best before your very eyes and make you think, feel, and wonder. Connecting with concepts that may be difficult but necessary to process. Connecting more deeply with your spouse/friend/children as you experience live theater together. Connecting over conversations after the performance to mull over new terrain that may have been covered on the stage. Connecting with new life views that may inform your behavior the next day and perhaps forever. Connecting you with a perspective that you may not know you needed, but are happy to receive (or not). Connecting with our best selves by being reminded of our worst selves. Connecting with things that scare us, but finding catharsis through the exploration of them. Connecting with a group as you navigate a cornucopia of live theater together and forging strong new connections within that group.
Funny, I can’t think of a single reason NOT to attend live theater. Good for our brains. Good for our souls. Enough said. See you on Broadway. Click here to join the Theater Group. Click here to check out our ambitious lineup (an exciting new show – with an attendant hefty price tag – was just added).
We can do this. We need to do this. It’s good for us. See you on Broadway. 🙂