The Case for Live Theater
A few months ago my husband and I took our daughter to see a local play. During intermission we ran into my niece and her fiancé. The two of them shared how much they were enjoying the play and were surprised that our 8-year-old daughter loved it as well. I explained that we loved the theater because unlike movies, TV, videos games, and other digital entertainment, theater still requires us to use our IMAGINATION.
My niece’s fiancé said he had never thought about it that way and said, “we are totally going to do this with our future kids.”
Since that conversation I’ve been thinking a lot about why I love live theater so much. Here are four reasons.
1. Theater Represents Real Life. Live theater is just that, it’s live. There are no second takes or restarts. If an actor makes a mistake, like forgetting a line or dropping a prop, or if something goes wrong with the set, he/she has to stay in character and the play must go on. They have to rely on creativity and on-the-spot smarts to keep things moving.
I think this is a great lesson for us and for our kids. Can you imagine if an actor made a mistake or something went wrong and they felt bad for themselves or started crying and walked off stage? Of course not.
Last year we took another one of our daughters to The Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City, Utah, and watched one of the funniest plays we have ever seen, Peter and the Star Catcher (the prequel to Captain Hook). If you have seen this play you know how hilarious it is. Well, at one point in the play, the actor who played Black Stache (the future Captain Hook) either forgot his line or messed it up, which was obvious by the reaction of those around him. Things could have become awkward very quickly, but without skipping a beat, the actor wiggled his eyebrows up and down and made a series of hysterical facial expressions that had the audience rolling in the aisles.
On another occasion we went to see Cirque du Soleil and watched a super talented juggler on some crazy high balancing thing. While he was juggling all of these balls and rollers, he dropped one of the balls. He hardly reacted to his mistake and others on stage with him casually picked up the ball and threw it back to him. They all worked together to make it look like that was supposed to happen and I’m sure most of the audience didn’t even notice.
Having been in several plays myself, I know mishaps happen in live theater much more frequently than the audience realizes. This represents real life. We look at other people and assume their lives are perfect. But we have no idea what’s going on “backstage” -- or how many balls they are being dropped.
2. Theater Requires Imagination. With the amazing cinematography and special effects in movies today, there is no need for us to use our imagination. Every image is neatly handed to us in award-winning imagery and soundtracks.
A few years ago we went to see the play, Driving Miss Daisy. If you’ve seen the movie, you know that a good portion of the show is spent in the car with Hoke and Miss Daisy. The play we watched didn’t have a car on stage, or even a steering wheel. No, all they had to represent a car were 2 chairs up front and 2 chairs in the back. The driver had his hands on an imaginary steering wheel and was looking in his imaginary rearview mirror. But it sure felt like they were sitting in a car, because your imagination takes over and you can see every detail about that car. It was amazing.3. Theater Uses Music to Teach Music has the power in and of itself to set the mood, take you on a journey, and evoke emotions. If you are taking your children to see a musical, I would recommend listening to the music before you go. This way they can become a little familiar with the characters and storyline, and they will enjoy seeing the music with acting and choreography.
A few weeks ago my husband and I went to see Les Miserables at Hale Centre Theatre in Salt Lake City. It was so moving, I literally cried the whole time. In this show there is no speaking, just singing. It is so amazing. I loved it so much that I wanted to take my oldest daughter to see it too. She had been wanting to see the movie but I wasn’t too thrilled about that idea because I felt they showed a little too much (again, they didn’t leave much to the imagination). Before we went to the musical, we listened to the music together while I told her about the characters and explained whole story to her. Because of this, she was emotionally prepared to have a beautiful experience in the theater.
I ended up seeing Les Mis 3 times that month. I just loved it so much I had to keep bringing others with me so I could share that experience with them.
4. Theater = Memories It has been a fun tradition to take our children to the theater, and to try and make it a special experience each time. Before the show starts we usually stop by the concession stand and get some snacks, and then sit and read through all the actor bios. At intermission we get another treat and talk about what we liked about the show, and what we thought was going o happen in the other acts.
Last year we had a front row seat to Tarzan. At one point in the show, the gorillas were interacting with the audience, and gave our five-year-old a “high five.” She could not stop smiling, she felt so cool, and she will always have positive memories from that night. You can’t get that from a movie.
I know that the theater can be expensive, so we try to plan ahead and find the shows we really want to see, and then just save up for it and make it a really special event.
I also know a lot of people that don’t think they would love live theater. But the more you see and learn about it- and once you see a hilarious comedy or a powerful, moving musical- you'll be hooked. The life lessons, creativity, musical experiences, and wonderful memories make live theater an invaluable experience for the entire family.