World Theatre Day - Bonus Special 1
What is World Theatre Day?
World Theatre Day is celebrated on March 27. It was first created by the International Theatre Institute in 1962. It is designed to recognize, celebrate and advocate for the value and the importance of theatre. One of the main features every year is the circulation of the World Theatre Day International Message, usually by an internationally recognized figure in the theatre industry.
Why does theatre matter? We all know that it does, at least intrinsically, and we’ve all probably encountered an article shared on Facebook about why it matters to society, or how teenagers who do theatre get higher grades.
This is the question we want to unpack in this episode.
If you live in a conservative city, like Kate does, you probably have to defend the economic viability of the arts to people who’d rather replace them with snow ploughs.
So let’s talk about this: what economic impact does theatre have?
In cities where theatre seems to thrive, what difference does it make to the economy? We understand and accept the impact sports have. Well in London, twice as many people visit the theatre every year watch a Premier League football game?
Now that we’ve curtsied before the gods of capitalism to prove our worth in society, let’s move on to some more interesting arguments for theatre.
Benefits of theatre
Theatre is a literary performance-based visual arts medium. It inherits a lot of the benefits associated with those various media. The most obvious ones are creativity, collaboration, an awareness of history (both real and mythopoeic), a cultivation of empathy, where audiences and makers alike are made to see the world through somebody else’s eyes and to appreciate the nuance and complexity of what it means to be fully human.
Theatre is also empowering, by nature. It literally gives physical space, it literally gives a voice. That’s not to say that theatre is inherently a medium that empowers the powerless; for a long time in its history, theatre served to amplify the stories of the privileged.
But the potential for empowering the underprivileged exists in theatre in a remarkable way.
Theatre is also community-building. For those among us who were lucky enough to find our tribe in a cast, or a program or a community theatre, we understand the incredible bonds that get forged in the rehearsal hall or in the green room
Again, there is space (and the need) for nuance here, as however welcoming that tribe can be, it can also turn into a clique.
But it is community building in a much more profound was as well. In theatre, you the theatre maker welcome an audience into the space and share with them something you created that they need. We don’t create theatre in a void but at a particular time in a particular place for a particular audience. You’re providing a conversation you think your community needs or will enjoy.
These are soft skills that are incredibly valuable along with my least favourite, which is improv. It’s no wonder that theatre has a positive impact on education.
The power of story
As we already mentioned, story is an incredibly powerful way to experience the world through somebody else’s eyes, fostering empathy.
Theatre is a very unique art form because of how immediate it is. Think about an incredibly emotional scene in a book you read versus in a play you’ve seen. It’s right there, raw, in front of you. Unfiltered, unedited.
At the same time, you’re under no illusion that it’s actually happening and maybe you should intervene. It’s a safe place where some of the most beautiful and some of the darkest human emotions and actions take place and out of it you experience catharsis, a purge, and you construct meaning.
The power of a shared experience
Theatre is the best remedy for the divisiveness of our current era.
Studies show that the heartbeats of an audience watching a show will synchronize, which provides a sense of oneness (oh and by the way, there’s also research that experiencing a live theatre performance could stimulate your cardiovascular system to the same extent as a 28 minute fitness workout.)
Share your passion
In the end, theatre matters because it matters to you. It has a positive effect on society because it has a positive effect on your life. And ultimately, your passion is the best argument you can make for theatre. Your personal experience is the best proof you can offer that theatre matters.
All these other points are fascinating. As I did research on the subject, it was so interesting to be exposed to people much smarter and much more eloquent than me talk about the importance of theatre in society.
But people’s minds are rarely changed because of logical arguments, sadly. Logical arguments give permission to believe something someone wants to believe but hasn’t committed to yet (so they’re still important). But your best argument is to share your experience with someone. Share theatre with someone. You’re not going to change their minds. Listen to them, tell them that you agree it’s important for roads to get ploughed and invite them to see a play.
Advocate for theatre
See theatre regularly
Donate to theatre (start with $5/month - can’t see a play, donate the cost of a ticket)
Share about theatre on your social media channels (very non-obnoxious way)
Organize an outing with your coworkers
Volunteer with theatre companies
Check out PACT’s advocacy resources
Our theme song is Tri-tachyon by Little Lily Swing available at Free Music Archive.
Nina Lee Aquino excellent 2018 WTD Message, A Different Kind of Heart Surgery
Shea King, Pay people for their work
Lauren Mooney, Why Does Theatre Matter
Ayad Akhtar, An Antidote to Digital Dehumanization? Live Theater
Duška Radosavljević, Mark Fisher and Karen Fricker, A dialogue on theatre criticism in the digital age