Get your philosophy on . . .

I got an email from a 17 year old reader from Miami, FL who is taking classes at my alma mater this summer.  We’ll call him David . . . because that’s his name.

One of David’s classes is called “Theatre in New York” and it’s a class “dealing with the philosophy of performance, particularly in relation to theatre seen both on and Off-Broadway.  The class culminates in a presentation where I, as part of a group, must answer the question, “What is Theatre?””

David’s group has decided to ask all sorts of folks in and out of the biz for their answer to that question.

Tough question, right?  At first I tried to come up with a clever answer like the urban mythical Harvard applicant who when asked on his application to “Use the space below to describe yourself” answered with one word.  “Brief.”

Here’s what I came up with.

What is Theatre?

Theatre is the only art form that exists in the present tense.

Film was.

Books were.

Theatre is.

What is Theatre to you?

Use the space below to comment your thoughts.  To quote our good friend, David . . .

There are no parameters, no rules.  It can be as long as you want, as short as you want, as specific as you want, as broad as you want.  We thank you for sharing your time to help us with our project (and our grades).


  • YoungMinds says:

    Theatre is a live, intimate connection between performer and audience which gives us a richer experience of the human condition.

  • RLewis says:

    Any arrangment where at least one person conveys a story to not less than one other person.

  • As a writer, I have to say that theatre is in just about everything. If you’re watching a scene, even in real-life and it engages you on any level, then you’ve just experienced theatre. So if you’re looking for it, you can find theatre anywhere.

  • Samantha Dercher says:

    The more I try to describe theatre, the less any of my words make sense. I’m not sure that theatre can even be described [regardless of my many attempts]. Maybe it’s like love? You can’t quite describe it, but it changes you, it tells you something about life, and you definitely know it when you feel it.

  • jane says:

    Your definition is exactly how I always describe theatre. Theatre is simultaniuosly a representation of the time when it was writen, and the time when it is performed. The same words and ideas which were presented 20 years ago can be presented now with a new sensibility. The meaning of the work can even change from night to night of a production, as cast members get changed or the creative team tweaks. And all of this happens in front of us, it is living because it is now; you are watching things actually happen, and that is what makes it so beautiful.

  • Theatre is moving. In every sense of that word.

  • lindsey says:

    Theatre as a whole is concerned with all kinds of experiences- beautiful or ugly, strange or common, noble or ignoble, actual or imaginary. It is the canvas on which an artist can spill all the different hues of these experiences on. In the time span of a show we can experience escapism and leave the piles of work on our busy desk and allow the songs and the words to cleave into our soul. We can embed these experiences deep within us and revisit them again and again.

  • Michael says:

    Theatre is an art form that can not be reproduced such as photos, film, sculpture, and painting (as you stated, it just ‘is’). Each performance is unique no matter how air-tight the production.

  • G Higa says:

    My favourite definition of Theatre comes from Olivier Py.
    “I don’t like theatre” she said while putting on her lipstick.

  • Wild Bird says:

    Theatre is a symphony of communication through storytelling- The playwright to the audience, the actors to each other, the actors to the audience, the audience to the actors and so on. At every level one person (or group of persons) makes an effort to express or to receive messages from another person, live.
    I’ve often thought the most interesting part of theatre is that living connection BETWEEN these groups. I think Uta Hagen calls it “communion”.

  • Kathleen Kaczan says:

    Theatre is…Not Film!
    It is live Passion generally performed on stage and each performance is never the same.
    It could never break records at the box office.
    It could never go straight to DVD.
    It could never win an Oscar.
    But it could never lie because it is REAL! It can be real good or real bad but no matter what it will always be REAL!
    Kathleen Kaczan

  • Grace says:

    Theater is an art form where everyone (including the audience) influence the “product.” There is no such thing as the final product because theater is ephemeral, only existing in that moment- never to be experienced again in that exact combination.
    I feel though it must be noted that dance and music are other art forms with similar properties in terms of fleeting, dynamic existence. However, theater can and does use these two art forms in its own.
    In that vein, theater is a collaboration of many of the arts (and usually of multiple creative people) to create. Theaters needs more than a single individual to exist (since theater requires a live audience).

  • C. Toole says:

    Theatre is a collaboration between all those involved in its production (producers, writers, directors, actors, designers, technicians, etc.) and the audience.

  • Damian says:

    What is this theatre? There are so many answers to that question. And really, every answer has a beauty and majesty with in itself. Any answer can make the person asking reveal more questions. And that’s really as it should be. But, one thing’s for sure, people are longing for more of it just by their mere desire of wanting to be a part of it. Some focus their efforts in the craft in a multitude of outlets. Some write, act, design, build, organize, raise money, sell tickets at the box window with a smile and twinkles in their eyes, others just love the joy of merely going to see it in action from their view in the house. Regardless of how you involve yourself, theatre is living and breathing. Purely by those living and breathing people who desire to have it part of their lives; part of the world.
    Wheather your focus is to bring theatre to a new level, to organize activists, to re-establish the ensemble, to produce this kind of play, that kind of musical or to evoke something never before evoked in the hearts and minds of your audience. Even if you want to be daring, experimental, contemporary, classic, mind-numbing, inspirational to every aspect that has the ability to be inspired, critically acclaimed, never-before-seen, or because you just want to do it. If, for all the good reasons you, your neighbor, college professor, high school mentor, peer, or people of all the world have, none of it matters. Not one iota. Theatre, in every attempt, is all that.
    Theatre is what theatre does. If you have something to tell your world then tell it. Let theatre be that canvas for which you enter into the world silent and exit the world a transformed individual. And, if after all that, no one listened; do it again. There is a reason why theatre, surrounded by every new technological media outlet and cinematic screen, has survived. It’s constantly changing; adapting itself to the world. It’s modernity; and people want more and if they didn’t it would be dead. Thetre truly is now in the experience of it; and never forgotten in its aftermath.

  • mperloe says:

    Theatre is what happens in your head when you see a great performance.

  • A says:

    I had a theatre teacher that described theatre as the one art form that can take a group of complete strangers and can make them laugh together, cry together, feel something- anything together. Be it the cast, crew, even the audience.
    Theatre is feeling.

  • Keven says:

    I think that David’s quote works for what theater is…
    There are no parameters, no rules. It can be as long as you want, as short as you want, as specific as you want, as broad as you want. We thank you for sharing your time to help us with our project (and our grades).
    Don’t you think.

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