Theater has a power.
One could say that theater has a great many powers and that may or may not be true but it’s largely irrelevant because, when you get right down to it, theater only has one true, unique power. Luckily for theater though, that one power is so immense and colossal that it has single-handedly kept theater alive for thousands of years.
Theater’s power is that it puts people in a space together and it lets them connect with one another.
It sounds simple because it IS simple. That simplicity, though, is dangerous. People tend to overlook simple things. People tend to disregard simple things and not recognize their power.
Just put the people in a room and let them connect. When it comes to theater, that’s all you have to do. That’s what theater is about at its core - in its heart and in its guts - its soul. That’s theater’s power.
Think about it. Theater has been around for thousands - literally THOUSANDS - of years. Nothing lasts that long unless it’s doing something right. Theater lets us connect to one another. That’s something we as a species desperately need. We long for connection. We CRAVE it. We always have and we always will.
We don’t go see theater just to be entertained. We don’t go just to see amazing sets, a particularly creative lighting plot, or a really excellent set of costumes. We go to FEEL. So many people get so caught up in the dressings of theater that they lose sight of what the core of theater is. Spectacle has become a driving force when it should never be more than a supporting element. If theater was merely about entertainment and spectacle and not something deeper then it would have been dead the second that film started to explode as an art form. Television would have punched theater’s corpse down to the Earth’s core. That didn’t happen. Why? Because theater PUTS THE PEOPLE IN THE ROOM TOGETHER.
I don’t know about you, but all of the most important, vital, and impactful moments of my life have occurred with other people. Weddings, births, first kisses, last waves goodbye - none of them I experienced alone. None of them would also have happened if I wasn’t connected to the people I was sharing those moments with.
We need to focus on the connection and on the power of that connection. You get into a room and a stranger looks you in the eyes and you’re instantly connected. It’s instantaneous and it’s powerful and it’s vulnerable and it’s sometimes uncomfortable but it’s a true experience and it’s shared. It’s not something you can escape by changing the channel. It’s not a communication that is one hundred percent of your control like it might be when you’re texting on your phone. Theater is a realness that forces you to share yourself with it in the moment. We spend so much of our time hiding from things that we don’t want to think or feel about ourselves and our world that it can be almost overwhelming when a stranger looks us in the eyes and tells us the truth.
We can’t lose sight of these things in theater. We can’t let theater’s one true power be set by the wayside to make room for spectacle. I don’t understand why people who make theater attempt to do this. Why do a production of ‘The Lion King’ and spend fifteen thousand dollars on an elaborate set? I mean, I KNOW I’M NOT ACTUALLY IN AFRICA WATCHING JUNGLE CATS SINGING. No set, no matter how detailed and creative, is going to convince me I’ve been transported halfway around the world to Africa to watch animals talk. You won’t be able to sell me on that. You want to sell me on a son grappling with the loss of his father? You want to sell me on the journey that a young (lion) man undergoes to finally come into his own? Fine, 'The Lion King' can sell me on that, but it doesn’t need lights and sounds and costuming to do it - it just need people in a room connecting to one another.
I’m not here to lie to you - theater is important. As we go onward and technology continues to evolve, theater may even be becoming MORE important. Technology, while fantastic in many ways, tends to hinder more than help when used as a vehicle for human connection. Sure, using technology I can connect with more people than I could without it, but I’m connecting to so many more people so much less authentically. For each step that we move forward in that fashion we lose a slice of the overall connection picture, we lose a slice of truth and realness.
So let theater do its job. Put the people in a room and let them connect with one another. Let them share truths with each other. Let them take care of one another. Give them the gift of letting them know that they aren’t alone - that they aren’t alone in their thoughts and feelings and struggles and desires - that all of those things are shared by all of us as we go through this life together.
Theater’s doors are open.
Just step through.
Jesse Nepivoda is the Co-Artistic Director of TSBTC.
THE SPACE BETWEEN Theatre Company
is the resident theatre company at:
THE DIFIORE CENTER FOR THE ARTS
307 North Main Street
St. George Utah 84770 (MAP)
T (435) 216 - 5523
P.O. Box 474
Santa Clara Utah 84765
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