Theatre is the real world

December 14, 2016   ·   0 Comments

It happens: “If your child comes home wanting a career in the theatre; you try to talk them out of it but if they get that look in their eyes and say, ‘no I want to be in the theatre,’ just resign yourself and do your best for them,” so say the sages in the theatre world.

There are people and parents who dismiss the theatre as mere fantasy, just escaping from the real world and it dawned on us how wrong they are.

It must never be imagined that theatre work is easy; it is as much work as any one might think of: extremely long hours, intense intellectual demands, heavy responsibility to get things right and huge interdependency by the whole team given with such willingness as would make corporate managers drool did they but understand it. Some of the work is extremely physical; people are employed in all manner of capacities and a greater variety of skills is involved with putting together a theatrical production than any other type of product you can name.

There are two aspects about theatre that might lead the thoughtless to believe it is nothing more than fantasy: that stories are told there and that audiences applaud at the end of the show, sometimes very loudly; sometimes jumping out of their seats and shouting “bravo” or the like. Not many jobs are that much fun.

However, it is a long walk to that moment of approbation and no one should doubt the very real effort needed for success.

There is nothing unreal about the work of writing and many of the stories are about this very real world; we need the theatre to reflect our lives back to us or, more importantly, reflect the lives we do not know but are better for understanding. Every subject under the sun, every emotion, struggle, joy, fear, everything we know and think eventually turns up on a stage somewhere.

A playwright is a skilled, well-educated (in so many ways) soul who must delve into the minds and speeches of the characters who he/she wishes to tell the tale as the plot unfolds. It is as much genuine work as an accountant making sense of the books: it is simply a different skill set. It can take a year or more to develop and finally offer for performance, although the play never goes from computer to stage but is further honed to excellence by workshops and readings before audiences.

Acting is a profession. To come to the stage within that profession, there are years of schooling and practice. It may be wonderful but it also requires education and training.

The Director comes into his role through years of experience, to hold the whole together, to give guidance and instructions. However, we were recently told by a director that the actor’s instinct is always right. His example was, “If an actor stumbles over a line repeatedly, then there’s something wrong in the writing.”

Every story needs a setting, which setting must be designed, built and erected in the confines of a stage; the story needs light, often sounds, all of which are brought to life by very specialized designers, carpenters, painters, electricians with specific skills to create the perfect ambience for each moment; sound engineers to augment and, in some cases, clarify.

In order to bring all this to the stage, the performances require a stage manager who knows everything about the production and a stage crew to operate the changes to the sets and assist the actors in their (often very rapid) costume changes. They have to be ready, well-organized, focussed.

Then: talk about a leap of faith: not at all like the movies, live theatre is the very guts of entertainment. Only when it is live must individuals put themselves on the line and go out on stage in front of all those people and get it right – provide the timing, lines, the cues for the rest of the team to also get it right. It takes concentration, real self-confidence and a genuine trust in the others.

In back of all this is the office where the administration and marketing of the what is produced on stage takes place. The long hours and dedication exist there, too, or the shows could never go on.

Without fear-mongering or intimidation, how would the business world achieve this kind of dedication on the part of its employees? What other executive or general would display that kind of faith in the instincts of “the actors” in their worlds?

Where else is there such a passionate love for what one is doing as the theatre receives as the norm?

Is this the world of fantasy or actually the way people should work: with love, passion and the opportunity to have the best from them freely given – all the time?

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