Written by Patrick Jones
On more than one occasion, I have been asked why I do theatre. For years, I never had an answer except, “I got bored with everything else.” However, anyone who knows the slightest thing about theatre knows that no one is ever in it just because they got bored, and they certainly aren’t involved for the paycheck (if there is one). The reason goes much deeper than that.
Since its beginnings in 6th century B.C. Greece, theatre has been commenting on the “human condition,” or at least that’s how it’s known in modern day theatre. While the term “human condition” always refers to the arts making a statement to key events in humanity and what it means to exist as a human being, I prefer a lighter, more optimistic term: the art of being.
This art of being always tends to become more popular among humanity as a whole when trying times test us, such as the spike of interest in theatre during and after World Wars I and II. Perhaps we should take note that there has also been an influx of theatre in the world in the past 20 years. The reasoning for this simple. Not only do we as human beings need to be reminded of what it means to be human, we need to be reminded that we do not struggle through it alone.
What people tend to forget is that just because we comment on what it means to be human doesn’t mean that it has to be a lonely journey.
The first time I thought about how theatre fits into this conversation about humanity was last summer during the production of “The Nerd” at Searcy Summer Dinner Theatre. When we were in the lobby talking with audience members, it dawned on me that I couldn’t remember the last time someone came up to me and told me that the show they had just seen made them leave the theatre thinking. I remember driving home that night wondering if that’s all theatre had come to, a place of entertainment where we could escape.
It took me months to realize that this was exactly what theatre was, and that it had always been that, but in no way did that mean that it wasn’t still in the conversation about the art of being. In World War I, not only were people and nations under attack, but there was a war on theatre, as well. There were incidences where people would risk their lives just to go to the theatre. Their reason? To escape.
The same is true today. We go to the theatre to enjoy ourselves, to temporarily forget our problems, and that is in no way a bad thing. Because while we are there at the theatre, enjoying our entertainment, with dinner if we’re lucky, we are doing so together. Not alone, but as one whole determined to not only enjoy this art in the moment, but to make memory of it.
So the next time you feel trapped in this world, at your job, in your life, know you aren’t the only one. Find a theatre. Find what it means to be human. Enjoy it.