It seems as though everyone has a valid reason for choosing either theatER or theatRE to spell, well, to spell theatER or theatRE, usually based on: the context in which the word is being used; the country in or continent on which it is being used; which respected figure of some authority or expertise is consulted; and whether Wikipedia or some other dictionary is the reference guide of choice.
In the case of Real Live Theater, the ‘er’ version was selected over the ‘re’ version simply for practical purposes — we wanted people to find us on the internet. In our attempt to discover which spelling people would most likely search for us under, we devised a survey, groundbreaking for its use of exceptionally low-to-no technology: we distributed paper towels and pens randomly around a crowed room and verbally instructed people simply to write ‘real live theater/theatre’ on the towels, without any further explanation or debate, and without any mention of the spelling variations to choose from. In fact, the participants were not so much as even informed why they were being asked to participate in this exercise. When all twenty-five paper towels were collected and the results were tallied, it was revealed with great astonishment, that ‘real live theater’ (the ‘er’ version) was written on all twenty-five paper towels. With the announcement of the final results, RealLiveTheatER.ORG was born, but the larger debate still raged on: when is theatER appropriate and when is theatRE appropriate to use?
We have looked though our lists of theaters (or theatres, as the case may be) and have discovered that roughly half of those on our lists use the ‘er’ version and half use the ‘re’ spelling.
In the theatER camp we find Alternative Theater Ensemble, Novato Theater Company, Theater Rhinoceros, Orpheum Theater, Gershwin Theater, Cinnabar Theater, Pegasus Theater Company, Roustabout Theater, Sonoma County Repertory Theater, theater4, id Theater, Boston Conservatory Theater, Open Circle Theater, College of Marin Theater Arts Department, The Kennedy Center Theater and North Bay Theater Group, among others.
In ther theatRE camp we find Magic Theatre, Actors Theatre of San Francisco, Goodman Theatre, The New Conservatory Theatre Center, Traveling Jewish Theatre, Porchlight Theatre Company, Marin Theatre Company, Mendocino Theatre Company, Ukiah Players Theatre, Willits Community Theatre, Benicia Old Town Theatre Group, Summer Repertory Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre and Theatre Bay Area, among others.
Please take a moment to complete the simple one-question survey below and let us know which spelling you use.
If you would like to share your reasons for choosing one spelling or the other, or would like to elaborate on the appropriate circumstances in which to use either spelling, please click the red ‘Comment’ button below and share your thoughts with us. (Click here to see previously submitted comments on this subject.)
Cheryl Itamura is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Real Live Theater.