Thursday, January 22, 2009

What Makes Good Theatre

I’ve always considered theatre to be the physical manifestation of poetry. Truly good theatre expresses ideas through as many senses as possible, and it treats the lyricism of a play like a dance.

But poetry and lyricism do not mandate that the language of the play be graceful; some of a person’s most graceless moments are also the most life-altering, and a good production will capitalize on these moments, making them fully accessible to the audience. When the poetry of a play illustrates awkwardness alongside grace, comedy alongside tragedy, even random moments of utter nothingness, it makes the characters and themes relatable. The melody resonates with the audience on a significant level of emotion, which makes it instantly memorable. Like the lyrics to a person’s favorite song, a masterful production will ensure its message is imprinted in the audience’s minds. They will want to listen again; they will endeavor to sing along.

Good theatre presents its poetry in a way that challenges the audience—emotionally, physically, and intellectually—but it does not strive to send a message so profound that it leaves the audience behind. Attempting too arduously to disguise irony and meaning under an endless cycle of cleverness, or to “educate”, only alienates the audience, and the play may be regarded as aloof, even condescending. Desiring to achieve “highbrow” theatre is a mistake. A play’s profundity should evolve as a natural process, as implicit and remarkable as the physical responses of the body to the world around it. If the playwright or production strives purposely for this end, they will fail. Instead, their focus should be on the various elements of the play ultimately and delicately strung together—when the pieces fit, revolutionary depth will manifest itself.

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