In a blog post,Â Stephen Spotswood asked “What do you think of when you say ‘theatre’?”
After reading his article, I wanted to address it in my own blog post, rather than as a comment.
How do you define what theatre is? Â Wikipedia says:
Theatre (orÂ theater, seeÂ spelling differences) is a branch of theÂ performing arts. Any performance may be considered theatre; however, as a performing art, theatre focuses almost exclusively on live performers enacting a self-contained drama before an audience
The Miriam-Webster dictionary has additional definitions. Â Most of the definitions have to do with the building, or that plays are done there. Â But that’s not what Stephen is asking.
When I was in my first year of theatre school, on the first day of our acting class, the head of acting asked us to define theatre. Â We all gave answers similar to wikipedia and the Mirriam-Webster. After we had exhausted these answers, we were told that these things were not theatre. Â That theatre was a moment. Â That moment when “audience and performer breathe together”.
Its a littleÂ vague, at least until you’ve experienced it. Â But its right. Â I don’t think its all of it, but it is right. Â Theatre sort of falls into the category of “I know it when I see it”. Â Like a conversation I was having with Red Herring via twitter, about what makes burlesque different from say…stripping: Â its that burlesque is theatre (or at least has theatricality).
What do I mean when I say theatre? Â I usually mean a few things. Â The “breathingÂ together” thing I heard in theatre school, mixed with a bit of spectacle, mixed with drama.
Stephen also talks about an article by GwydionÂ Suilebhan that talked about a company that does Physical Theatre calledÂ Synetic Theater, and whether the work they do should be considered along side works more “traditional” in nature for a Washinton DC Theatre award. Â Now I’m not familiar with the work that Synetic does, but as a member of Keystone Theatre, which presents a form of theatre that lacks spoken word (we do plays in the style of silent film). Â Do we believe that what we do is theatre? Â Absolutely. Â It it at all like dance? Â Not a bit. Â It is physical theatre, but I find the idea that it doesn’t deserve to be along side “the likes ofÂ Oklahoma andClybourne Park” insulting. Â Is it theatre? Well, in my mind it most certainly is: it meets all of my criteria for determining what theatre is.
And that’s my response (however rambling) to the question.