There’s nothing quite as captivating as a live theatre experience. Watching something that first started life in your mind end up on stage and garner reactions from an audience is truly magical.
One tool actors employ when trying to discover magic within a role is “Magic If”, whereby asking themselves “What If” questions about their character can bring out previously unsuspected elements of that individual’s storyline.
The Immediacy of the Experience
Theatre as an art form that seeks to both entertain and provide meaningful insights into human experience provides many opportunities for discovery. Dramas may focus on serious themes while comedies can provide lighter fare. Whatever their genre, plays offer new perspectives on issues that matter most. What truly distinguishes theater plays, however, is their power of immediate resonance with audiences members: even though staged on an actual platform they allow viewers to enter another world altogether.
An experience of theatrical performance cannot be duplicated with digital technology. While the idea of recording performances and making them available to audiences in real time may seem attractive, doing so comes at a price. One downside to digital performance is its tendency to make people forget they are viewing via their device – in order for digital performances to truly qualify as theatre, they must overcome this tendency.
One method for doing this is by creating immersive environments in which audiences can interact with characters. This enables the audience to feel like they are present with them in their story and deepens engagement. Another strategy would be incorporating technology to give a performance a sense of immediacy.
At this theatre, this goal is accomplished using special effects that allow audiences to see, hear and touch actors in ways not possible on stage. Some of these effects are complex; employing techniques from mechanical physics, costume stitching and psychology among others – with one effect taking 17 prototypes before it was perfected by using physical movement by audiences themselves to create an immersive experience.
These effects can help create an immediate sensation for an audience, yet must be carefully considered and implemented so as not to overpower or disrupt the overall narrative of a piece.
The Collaborative Nature of the Art
Any actor knows it takes a team effort to produce a play, from director and stage manager, stage crew and crew all working in collaboration towards producing something worthy of its audiences’ investment. While collaboration may prove challenging and even frustrating at times, it also allows individuals to push past their comfort zones to produce something that will leave an indelible mark upon audiences.
This show at the Gaslight theatre builds a sense of community among participants and demonstrates to audiences that they are part of its artistic creation. This community may include teachers, retired citizens, therapists or other professionals collaborating together. When the final piece of collaborative art is unveiled it inspires celebration for their shared achievement while uniting people around its furtherance (Patrick et al. 2017).
Contrary to other literary forms, plays allow an audience member to directly experience what’s going onstage through engaging directly with characters and their surroundings. They can feel what emotions the characters are going through as it happens live onstage; plays often explore complex or controversial topics which elicit emotional reactions in audiences.
Theatre can serve more than entertainment; it can also act as a mirror to society and encourage introspection. Many plays focus on moral instruction while encouraging their audiences to consider how their lives relate to those of society as a whole.
Structure is also crucial. Playwrights typically organize their works into larger units called acts and smaller vignettes called scenes that allow audiences to witness specific points in time or the progression of characters.
Producing a play is a tedious and laborious process that demands great dedication from all involved. Actors will spend many hours practicing their lines; stage management, sound and lighting crew members all must also hone their craft before performing in final dress rehearsals, which mimic opening night conditions to ensure all aspects are ready to perform live on stage.
The Aesthetics of the Performance
Theatre stands apart from other literary forms as its nature involves collaborative modes of production and collective forms of reception. As such, its production processes entail collaborative modes of production as well as collective reception – this directly affects dramatic texts’ structures. A play production usually includes contributions from a playwright, director, cast of actors and technical production team such as scenic or set designer, costume designer, lighting designer and sound designer; composer, dramaturg or video designer may be necessary depending on its length or subject matter.
Theater performances can be intensely experiential and affective experiences for audiences of any kind, whether tragedies of great sorrow or comedies with light-hearted humor. Audience members experience laughter and shame together – creating a communal experience of pleasure or sorrow shared among them all – something the theater cannot replicate. This emotional involvement makes theater an unparalleled form of art form.
Because theatre is such an artistic environment, everything presented onstage must be remarkable or special in some way. “Our Town” depicts everyday actions such as reading newspapers or gossiping; yet due to the setting these mundane activities take place with extraordinary flair.
Like characters from any play, those of a drama must also stand out as memorable or special in some way; whereas in comedies they should provide comic relief and provide viewers with emotional engagement.
Theater education must take into account a range of influences on audience response; these can range from how much knowledge an audience already possesses on a topic before seeing a play to the extent to which prior experiences might impede or influence enjoyment and understanding of it.
Though “aesthetics” is usually associated with visual arts, it can also serve as a useful framework for discussing theatre in classrooms. Instead of narrowly defining “aesthetics”, students might learn how to apply this philosophical concept across all forms of theatrical performance – sparking lively discussions on what exactly makes an experience “art,” as well as how that might shape an audience response.
The Audience’s Response
Audience responses to theatrical performances can be complex and diverse, including sensory and physiological reactions as well as aesthetic ones like satisfaction, elation or awe. Furthermore, it also encompasses audience member communication as well as perceptions of authenticity.
Theater audiences tend to enjoy feeling connected to the drama onstage. By empathizing with characters’ struggles or victories, audiences can often identify with them on an emotional level and shorten psychological distance between themselves and them – thereby building intimacy within the drama (New Economics Foundation, 2013).
Not only do theater-goers enjoy experiencing emotional resonance through theater performances, they also relish in experiencing artistic inspiration. Interviewees describe this sensation as being similar to aesthetic growth; interviewees describe this experience as changing how they view the world. Furthermore, audiences appreciate being able to analyze theatrical performances to better comprehend their artistic significance.
Interviewees also frequently reported being transported into another time or place during performances, creating an experience similar to Csikszentmihalyi’s (1996) flow state.
Experience of theater often involves being immersed in its plot and development, where they find themselves mesmerized until it reaches its climax and resolution. The excitement generated during a play adds another layer to this thrilling experience.
Theater-makers must recognize that every performance is distinct, and work toward producing organic rather than factory products. Two different companies may perform the same play with completely different styles and audiences will have completely different experiences each night; an especially impactful scene might make an impression one night while later seeming quite disingenuous on another occasion.