Last week, I did an interview with David Diamond for the World Theatre Day Blog. One of the questions I asked him was: why theatre? Here is his response:
It’s about our ability to be transformed through the theatre. Communities, like people, have the need to storytell. To collectively process fears, desires, anger, sadness…. when communities lose the ability to do this, they get sick – just like people do. It is pretty basic that we need to express our emotions to be healthy. Theatre is the language through which this can happen.
Humans think, not in sentences, but in metaphors. That’s what makes art powerful–it is expressed in metaphors. What makes good theatre is the transformational power of the work. You can have a play that has the highest production values possible, but how can it be good theatre if it has no transformational ability – if the audience isn’t challenged – pushed into disequilibrium in some small or large way? Conversely, a show in a black box with no costumes or set may very well be good theatre if you walk away from it having changed in some way.
It started me thinking… of all the careers I could have chosen, and probably been successful at, I chose theatre. Why?
The reasons are very clear to me, but it’s been a while since I expressed them. So, here goes…
1. It just fits. In Tennesee William’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Brick talks about waiting for the ‘click’ in his head while he’s drinking. After the click, he goes to his ‘happy place’, if you will, where he is not bothered by the storms around him.
For me, Theatre is my ‘happy place’. I feel more at home, more alive, and more kinship when I am at the theatre than anywhere else. I remember so clearly my first experience on stage in front of an audience. I was 18, and playing a fairy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a college production. I was so terrified, I was practically throwing up back stage, but I went on, and when we went out for the curtain call, standing there on stage with all those other wonderful theatre artists, I just knew I was home.
2. Theatre is the greatest of all the arts. Okay–I know some of you might argue with me, here, but for me, theatre combines so many of the arts–music, visual, writing, I think it’s the king. And I continue to go to the theatre seeking out jaw-dropping, heart-stopping moments of perfect theatrical creativity and brilliance. I don’t find them often, but I crave them, and continue to seek them out.
3. The people. “There’s no people like show people.” It’s true. I count myself lucky to have found a community that accepts and includes me. Some people search for that all thier lives, and I have found it in my fellow theatre artists.
4. Flow. “Flow” is a term coined by psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. According to him, Flow is characterized by a “mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.” The only moments in my life where I feel I have truly experienced flow have been on stage, or in class. I called them “orgasmic theatre moments,” and each one is still perfectly clear in my head.
But enough about me. How about you? Why are you a theatre artist? I want to know!