Cory Dunn is the Production Manager at Gulfshore Playhouse.
How does theatre still exist?
In a world where big budget motion pictures and television shows can take
us to any world, any time, any scenario possible with thorough detail, how is there
still an audience for live theatrical work?
It is amazing that, despite the growth in technology that allows art to be
more accessible and creatively fulfilling for its audience, the theatre art form still
lives in this modern age. Some even consider theatre a luxury – not just a casual
night out for entertainment, but an event that is viewed as a rare treat that one can
go weeks without. But I argue that theatre is a necessity, and that its being
necessary is how the art form survives today, despite the alternative entertainment
options available. Theatre is necessary because it reminds us that we are all human;
that though we are flawed and cannot always control our surroundings, we have
stories to share that can connect us all.
In my opinion, the appeal of theatre is the uncontrollable reality in front of
us. In film or television, the writers, director and editors have complete control of
the product presented to their audience; frames are set in specific ways to control
the audience’s focus, the way an actor delivers their line is picked out of dozens of
takes, and the pace of a scene can be dictated through cuts and edits. In contrast, as
much as a director or writer may try to control how every performance of a play is
presented to the audience, they must yield to the reality of live art, which is that
anything can happen at any time and there is not much one can do about it. At any
given moment, an actor living in a scene could feel compelled to deliver a line with a
different inflection, make a new choice as to how their character might react to the
scene, or even stutter over their words as they speak. To a much more drastic
extent, things can even go horribly wrong in this live performance setting as well,
with accidents and human error attributing to a performance going completely off
But to me, this is the beauty and necessity of the live theatrical arts. There is
no hiding the fact that we are all humans watching a group of extra-talented human
performers tell us a story. Theatre invites you into the performance space to catch a
glimpse of performers thinking, feeling and reacting in real time, while those of us in
the audience are doing the same. It presents an opportunity to share in a moment
with not only the performers on stage but also the audience members around you.
As you share in the moment together, anything could happen at any time that could
twist the moment in another way. In a sense, theatre provides the chance to
celebrate the randomness of life, and allows for the audience to enjoy the process of
experiencing an event with a fellow human being.
Theatre is a necessity because it celebrates the flaws and randomness of life
and humanity, even if it is not intentional. It is why audiences come back again and
again, whether it is to see the story of a scientist doing genetic research in Informed
Consent or the story of a band of actors trying to survive their insane matinee in
Moon Over Buffalo. We enjoy witnessing the human experience together and we
embrace our flaws, consciously or not, while we also enjoy the story. And because
the theatrical arts are necessary, I believe the art form will continue on for a very,
very long time.