“Real, live theater. You know, the kind of theater where actors perform plays and musicals live, on a stage.”
I find myself saying these phrases a lot these days.
Upon meeting someone for the first time, the course of polite conversation always, ultimately seems to turn to, “So, what is it that you do?”
To which I answer, “I’m in theater.”
To which they often reply with uncertainty, “Uh, a movie theater?”.
The “Uh” of their uncertainty seems almost always to stem from the combination of their instant identification with movie trailers, movie advertisements, movies they’ve gone to see, and a vision of the megaopolis movie theater complex in their neighborhood that they regularly drive past during their commutes to work or to school or to both, and some cloud of remembrance of some other type of theater they vaguely recall from their far distant past. It is because of this hazy memory they are are unsure if “movie theater” is the correct guess.
When I correct them with my reply, flint rubs steel and there is a spark. The spark may be of: a play at church or at school in which they played some small part as a child; watching friends or their children or their grandchildren sing and dance across the stage in Guys and Dolls or Grease or more recently in High School Musical in, well, a high school musical production; or of a long buried desire to sing or dance or act on stage that was never fully ignited. Everyone, it seems has some story to recall and sadly, too often the existence of theater in their consciousness is referred to in past tense.
During the present technological times the preferred method of most of the world’s communication, entertainment and social interaction funnels through electronic devises and is delivered at a time of convenience to the sender and is received at a time of convenience to the end user, in the privacy of their own homes, laps, hands or offices usually via a two-dimensional rectangular screen that comes in varying sizes, sometimes with earphones or speakers attached. Fast. Reliable. Generic. Often bad. Sometimes good. Occasionally great. But where in this electronic age is real human interaction? Why is the need for privacy encouraged, pursued and prized to the point of creating a society of socially inept individuals? When does actual, not virtual human contact come into play?
We are distracted from our need for human contact as new services emerge that allow us to send and receive an ever-increasing number of voicemails, emails, text messages and an endless stream of hot, new products enable us to download endless hours, days and years, albeit more than a lifetime’s worth of information and entertainment to enjoy in the luxury of our own self-imposed solitary confinement. We are blinded to the fact that isolation is marketed to us as a most desirable situation and is highly encouraged in order to boost the sales of more and more gadgets.
Don’t get me wrong. I do understand the benefits of electronic communication, on-line entertainment and virtual social interaction — after all I am using an electronic device to write this to you and you are receiving it on your two-dimensional screen, all the while people have been sending me voicemails, emails and text messages for goodness sake! – however, I also understand the power of: attending a convention or conference to listen to and witness a live speaker move an audience; partaking in an engagement or celebration where food and drink is shared; real hands touching briefly in formal acknowledgment or in casual appreciation of each other; watching (or participating in) a live performance; and evidencing first-hand the ability of human effort to warrant a standing ovation.
Real, live theater is communication, entertainment and social interaction in the three-dimensional world. A three-dimensional world that must be reclaimed and nurtured in order to maintain our humanity set against the dimension reductionist marketing movements of our day. (What’s next – devices that reduce us all to a one-dimensional existence? We will all end but as a small dot on a globe somewhere in a far flung corner of the universe, but perhaps that is all we are anyway. It’s almost too much to fathom.)
[Applause] to you for your interest in balancing your two-dimensional and three-dimensional worlds.
I hope you take a moment to communicate with a friend and invite them to see a show, be entertained, enjoy the human interaction between the artists and the audience, then applaud yourself for being a part of the three-dimensional world of real, live theater.
Cheryl Itamura is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Real Live Theater.