For thousands of years, theater and live performance have been some of the most beloved forms of entertainment in society. Even today, with all our latest technology and digital capabilities, the theatre continues to thrive and grow as an art form. In fact, perhaps it is exactly because so much of our daily lives are digitized that sitting down in a theater for a live performance has increased in its unique power to entertain.
The story of how contemporary theater came to be as it takes many twists and turns throughout history. All of these developments are of particular fascination to students of art and theatre, who often dedicate their study to tracing the different forms theatre has taken throughout its history. This topic has been the focus of many of the most prominent theater theorists for thousands of years, from Plato to Diderot.
The current pandemic, however, has thrown an unexpected twist into the story of live theater performances. Many theaters have had to limit their performances, or shut down entirely to protect public health. While this may seem like an unfortunate twist of events for lovers and students of the performing arts, these limitations have, in fact, opened a door for all kinds of innovation in the world of theater!
Many college students of the theater who no longer have the same access to live performances have shifted the focus of their education to a more theoretical or reflective approach. This can include reading and annotating plays or writing a research paper about elements of theatre such as a particular character, motif, or even reflecting on my favourite actress or actor. Many high quality examples of such an essay about a character or favourite actress written by top writers can be found online and offer more of an emotional reflection on performance than many of the traditional approaches to studying theatre.
Alternative ways to access theater
Students at many universities are using the current closure of theaters to get creative in how they access live performance! It’s becoming more and more commonplace for young theater-makers to experiment with the concept of performance in general.
In some places, groups of student performers have managed to work together to continue writing and performing. This often involves remote writing collaboration sessions or meeting in small groups rather than staging large performances. And while this may be out of the ordinary for many performers, it’s all part of what keeps theater such a dynamic and exciting form of art.
Live-streaming has opened up many opportunities for up-and-coming performers to share their work with the world from the comfort of their homes. Taking live theater into the digital sphere has also opened up opportunities for a new type of collaboration, by which performers act side by side from remote locations.
It’s important for students to remember that culture is not something static, and in order to stay relevant in modern times, art will always innovate based on shifts in the society surrounding it. Like with any skill, the difficulty is the mother of invention, and the sudden rise in the number of online theater festivals is a clear demonstration of this truth. So, rather than be dismayed by the fact that many theaters have temporarily shut their doors, contemporary students have an opportunity to embrace the current shifts in the world of theater. Exploring the history and theory of their craft and innovating new writing and performance methods are all part of modern education in theater. With such innovations taking place, the near future of contemporary theater is looking more exciting than ever!