Like most things I set out to do, I started this blog as more of a vague idea – that I would write something for it every week at least once to get back into practice with my writing. It has begun to coalesce now into a more defined form, as my intentions for the website become more clear to me. I really want to keep the intention of this weekly Sunday post, though, as a place to clear my head and talk about what I’ve been reading or doing over the past week.
I’ve been reflecting this week especially on the continued role of theatre in today’s world, and the forms it now takes on. This is a topic that is almost always on my mind. When I talk about theatre, though, I should be clear; theatre occurs any time people gather together to tell a story. It happens around campfires, on the streets, and now even on twitch livestreams – not just in the playhouses of old. To see the playhouse as the only way to experience theatre shows a misunderstanding of the history of the art.
The playhouse was an innovation, it is not a definition. The theatre lived before it, and will continue to after.
When the first chorus lines gathered to sing the stories of the ancient Greek gods and heroes, they weren’t in a playhouse. When the first actor stepped forward from that line, essentially creating western dramatic theatre, it was not in a playhouse. These things happened on a stage at the city Dionysia festival in Athens, outside, with a crowd seated on tiered stone benches running up a hillside. And even that tradition, already the first steps towards the playhouses of today, had earlier roots in telling those same stories at smaller religious or family gatherings, with no stage at all.
The point I’m circling is this: you cannot put art in a box. Society tries to do this and constantly fails, because by definition art is something that exists outside those boundaries. It happens everywhere, all the time, even when you try to suppress it – because we need it. It has found very defined forms over time, especially as those in power saw how dangerous it could be to them. Within those forms you can find incredible moments of connection, I am not decrying them by any stretch of the imagination. To say, though, that these defined forms are the only places art can exist, is flatly untrue.