What Should Theater Aim To Do?
An exploration of Catharsis, Metanoia, and Transformation
Theatre has been around for as long as humans have been around.
This may seem like a bold claim, but it was practiced as early as we had campfires and lived tribally.
Theatre, at its most basic form, is just us telling stories to each other. Sometimes these stories aim at enlightenment, sometimes they aim to tell us a myth, and sometimes they aim at entertainment.
In modern western society, especially on Broadway, the focus seems to be a blend of entertainment and of telling the stories of marginalized voices.
But there’s been a decline in how relevant or connected theatre is in western society.
I’m sure there will be those who will say that “Theatre has always been on the fringe of decline forever.”
Yes, that’s true, and it has transformed and persevered.
But we’re at a point now where the very relevancy and existence of theatre is being questioned.
My goal of this article is to provide a very basic outline of what I think theatre should aim to do if it wants to survive and thrive.
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The Root Of Modern Theatre
At the very root of modern theatre is the theatre of the Ancient Greeks. At least, that’s the most obvious, so I will start there. To start at any point pre-dating this time would need an article in itself.
In Ancient Greece, theatre was not only a spectacle, it was a festival. Theatre was a place where people went for days (unfortunately, it was all land-owning men at this point.)
The actors donned large masks that were contorted every which way to exaggerate the features of the character. The plays that were put on were usually mythological stories about the gods until the great Greek playwrights gained popularity.