Is Theatre Dying?

Rhetorical Blog

When was the last time that you went to see a play or musical?

For me, it was just a few weeks ago, but I am outside the norm. I grew up in theatre, surrounded by the whimsy and madness of community theatre. For the past 14 years, I have acted, directed, and witnessed some of the best performances that the South has to offer. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

However, something is looming over the theatrical community: it’s imminent demise.

[click for a surprise!]
Yes, we theatre nerds are all equally dramatic, however, I think demise is an appropriate term in this situation!

There seems to be a portion of society that believes theatre to be a dying art form. But why? What is causing people to assume that it’s fading out of existence? It’s been around since the beginning of time, what should cause it to crumble in the present?

One word: Movies

There is now a concern with the ever-increasing film industry that it will ultimately overtake the need for theatre. After all, why get dressed up and go out and spend lots of money on a play when you can order pizza and watch Netflix in your PJs?

I admit they have a valid point. Some days I would rather be a hermit.

Statista came up with the numbers for the amount of live theatre performance attendance in the US in 2016

 

If you can’t tell, 47.5 million people attended a live theatre performance in 2016. This is a great number, however, it’s tiny compared to the 246 Million that attended a film in that same year according to the Motion Picture Association of America. 

The numbers do look kind of scary but this could all be due to one important factor: The price of the tickets!

You know what Hamilton is right?

Hamilton Performance of “Yorktown”

If not, look up the soundtrack on Spotify and fall in love like the rest of America! Hamilton is a Broadway phenomenon written and led by Lin Manuel Miranda. It’s the story of Alexander Hamilton, one of the USA’s founding fathers. Only, it’s told through rap music and dancing. It’s indescribably amazing and I have never seen a performance of it. I have only listened to the music. Trust.

So imagine my excitement when I learned that Hamilton was coming on tour to Atlanta! I can’t travel to NYC so please bring this amazingness right to my doorstep.

AND THEN CRUSH MY DREAMS

Go ahead, click here and see why my hopes and dreams were DESTROYED. $309 for the worst seat in the theatre. I barely make that in a paycheck. (work in retail, it’s so worth it)

No thank you, I will just wait 20 years for them to release the original cast recording on TV so I MIGHT be able to afford it.

Why are tickets to Broadway shows so incredibly expensive?! James B. Stewart of the New York Times may have an answer for us. He identifies the pricing system as “Dynamic Pricing, in which cost shifts constantly to meet demand.” Sure there are ways to trick the system but still, it costs maybe $15 MAX to see a movie in the theatres and that’s if you go somewhere like the Movie Tavern where you can eat and drink alcohol while watching the movie.

I get it, it’s cheaper. BUT I have a solution to your play attendance issues!

Community Theater!

You can go see a quality performance in an area close to you for under $50 most of the time.

Why is a live performance better than Film? I’m very glad that you asked.

Brit Ried from the Odyssey says that “A movie is the same every time that you see it. You can see it a million times and that actress will always deliver her line the same way. But, when you see a show, you never know what you are going to get!”

I compared the dress transformation scenes in two versions of Cinderella!

First, the 2013 Tony Awards performance of Roger’s and Hammerstein’s Cinderella! The transformation starts at 2:28!

I then looked at Disney’s 2015 Live-Action (not animated) Cinderella directed by Kenneth Branagh

While both are quite spectacular, there is something just slightly more impressive about being able to achieve that stunt in front of a live audience.

I don’t believe that theatre is dying, I think it’s just being drowned out by the noise of the media. Michal Donahue from Medium said “Live theater and performance is not a dying art form but is merely the beginning to the gateway for all entertainment”

So, go find a community theatre and experience the wonder and be prepared to try a few different shows before you make up your mind.

Here are some pictures from my Community theater Act 1 inc, They have been my home most of my life and I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

Lost boys in “Peter Pan” 2013 [Alex Gilbert, Tyler Rawlins, Kevin Barnhardt, Sarah Wiedetz, Samantha Sims, Elena Bern]
“Tarzan” 2017 [Tarzan was played by Clay Duke and Kala was played by Audrey Arnold]
 

“The Count of Monte Cristo” 2014 [Moritz Arnold, Carol Anne Williams, Derrick Chapman]
Mrs. Gross [Me!] and Mary [Lindsey Johnson] “The Turn of the Screw” 2015

The cast of “Pirates of Illyria” my adaption of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”

 

My Visual Argument for this Topic

Context Statement: This video is basically a comparison of the benefits of going to see a live performance versus a film. This isn’t to say anything negative about film, I just have a soft spot for theatre and I am concerned about it’s survival in our digital society. I don’t think that theatre is going anywhere, I do believe, however, that there needs to be more support for the community theatres and that may be the key to keeping theatre alive!

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