When theaters are dark, we lose out on the stories that make us human.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d want to see my life acted out on a stage. A dramatic rendering of my foibles, failures, vanities and inconsistencies? No thanks. I know of few people who’d relish being the subject of such a display.
On the other hand, we as a society need to see such things because it does us good to be reminded of our potential failings and weaknesses before they erupt and cause trouble. If Macbeth could have seen
“Macbeth” before pulling out the knife, maybe things would’ve been different.
This all gets at one of the most important elements of live theater and what has made it a central element in society since the days of the ancient Greeks. It’s why a former head of the National Endowment for the Arts was fond of referring to the theater as the foundational civic art.
A relentlessly communal aspect is what live theater has to offer above and beyond all other forms of art: It’s a human story that unfolds live before us and is created then and there. More important, worthwhile plays, whether comedy or drama, offer valid, insightful commentary on the human condition. Not your condition or my condition, not the specific problems plaguing you or me, but what we all face due to the fact we’re all human. Live drama trains our sentiments with an immediacy that exceeds all other forms of art.
In the face of the determined multiculturalism of today, in which we spend all our time “celebrating” differences, yet with our AirPods and all else seal ourselves off with shocking effectiveness, anything that reminds us of our common humanity is desperately needed. A sole focus on that which we believe makes us unique can lead to corrosive selfishness and a damaging cultural isolation. One of the best arts for treating cultural isolation is the theater.
On March 12 at 5:00 pm New York time, Broadway—the heart of the nation’s theater world—closed down because of concerns about the coronavirus. Its theaters were originally scheduled to open back up again the week of April 13, but who really knows.
Charlotte St. Martin, the President of the Broadway League, said live theater “has the power to inspire, enrich and entertain, and together we are committed to making that vital spirit a reality. Once our stages are lit again, we will welcome fans back with open arms so that they can continue to experience the joy, heart, and goodwill that our shows so passionately express every night.”
Even from here, from 1600 miles away, I will be glad when Broadway—along with theaters all over the country—are able to open back up again.