Why We Do Theater

"The Ballad of Emmett Till" (2010). Photo by Ed Krieger

Today is World Theatre Day. For those of us who create and/or attend and support theater, today is the appropriate time to ask ourselves: “Why?” Why are we so passionate about this extraordinary art form? What is it about seeing a play or musical that has the power to change lives and open eyes, minds and hearts? This sacred ritual of human beings gathering together in a space to share the life-enhancing experience of being told a story that illuminates what it means to be a human being.

Why do we do it? Why is it still important to see theater and support it? Why do YOU create and/or support theater?

Here is one person’s answer: theater artist and teacher Patsy Rodenburg:

Theater Artists are “Healers” Who “Witness the Truth”

“To be present or not to be present?” is the question Patsy Rodenburg would ask all of us; she’s trying to bring the highly practical techniques that make actors successful to the rest of us. There’s often an inflexible screen between us human beings and the performances we’re shoehorned into every day, and we need to tear it out — establishing a space she calls “the Second Circle“: a state of mind and body where confident, relaxed control allows us establish intimacy and human connection where and when we want it.

With years behind her already as the eminent proponent of the use of Shakespeare in teaching for the present day (not just for actors, but for public speakers, prison inmates, and the mentally ill; see her book Speaking Shakespeare), she’s also spent years as a voice coach, perhaps Britain’s most highly-regarded. The actors on her formidable roster of have-taughts include Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Daniel Day-Lewis, many other Oscar-nominees and winners, as well as other shining figures of the silver screen and the stage.

As a teacher of acting, Rodenburg is known for her emphasis of the primacy of the human voice. In her book The Actor Speaks, she illustrates how solving the frustrating physical challenges of line delivery — questions as pragmatic as “When do I breathe?” to more philosophical ones like “How to get my message across to other actors?” — can open up new paths to performances which go beyond stage-ready to unforgettable.

She currently serves as Director of Voice at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and teaches voice at Michael Howard Studios in New York City.

How would YOU answer the question: Why I do Theater?

2 responses to “Why We Do Theater

  1. I do theatre to entertain, to educate and to inspire. To preserve imagination and defend dreaming. I do theatre to create in a world hell-bent on destruction. I do theatre because it gives life.

  2. Great reasons all, Greg. Love “to preserve imagination and defend dreaming.” YES!

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