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Breathless and Undying – An Essay on Theatre

Shreenika Ramani did a PAA Arts Administration Internship in Italy in the summer of 2015.  The following essay was part of her internship capstone project and we are sharing it here with her permission.

Breathless and Undying

Theatre has been closely associated with humans ever since the dawn of civilization and over time became the heart of world culture. It has been pursued as entertainment, an art form and means of social awareness. Theatre today confronts unprecedented challenges in a rapidly evolving society. Digital technology has spawned an array of media that compete with the stage for the audience’s finite attention.

As we are on the verge of losing faith, let us take a step back and evaluate what Theatre is essentially. Theatre in its core has always been about ‘Live Performance’ and that is where its wonder comes from. If we open our idea of Theatre as any “Live performance” we include rock concerts, street acts, standup comedy, and even sporting events. Various forms of live performance will rise and fall, but it is hard to imagine reaching a time when humans do not enjoy watching other humans performing in front of them.

Theatre offers something unique-something other art forms simply cannot deliver, which is the collective feeling of humanity! That is got through creating and experiencing a story together in a room. This act of human beings transforming in front of us in real time makes Theatre irreplaceable.

Traditionally theatre has been about showcasing art and talent appreciated and funded by affluent few. Today, it has become a breeding ground for passionate theatre companies with business goals, and a medium for brands looking for avenues to promote their product. It has also caught the fancy of those curious ones untouched by art or theatre before.

Today theatre is not just about presenting plays to audiences with a bend of mind for the arts, but it is also about how you take it to new target groups, attract sponsors and create experiences that bring value to “Brands” and people.

A start-up Theatre company no doubt fights with the question of survival each passing day. However, if we aim to “satisfy basic human needs” through the medium, it will grow exponentially and gain a new form altogether.

The Basic Human needs to satisfy at every engaging point with audience:

  •  Significance: Ensuring that the audience feels valued, their sentiments are not hurt.  They get value for their time and money.
  •  Uncertainty: Variety, unpredictable content
  •  Certainty: Assuring entertainment.
  •  Connection/Love: Deeply connecting with your audience. Even loving them.  And  encouraging love in the community in general.
  •  Growth: Seeing that you are making progress.
  •  Contribution: Contributing to the community. Using interactive media that allows the  audience to feel involved.

These Human needs must be applied within the organization as well.

The Theatre will surely stay alive in the future-the only question is in what forms? The hunger for live storytelling and the shared experience of actor and audience may even increase when people tire of the edited, buffed and packaged television and film. There is a certain delicacy with Theatre which is somewhat like breathlessness, because- Anything can happen!

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