• Patrick McAndrew

Why Theater Is More Important Now Than Ever Before

Theater is more important now than ever before.  “Why, Sir Patrick!  That is quite a strong statement!”  Indeed, that it is and that it is true.

I recently read an article originally published by The Chronicle of Higher Education.  The article is titled, Why Theater Majors Are Vital in a Digital Age, written by The Hartt School Professor Tracey Moore.  In it, she details the vital importance of theater majors in today’s age.

Moore quotes:

“In acting classes, students grapple with the effects of technology on their brains, bodies, and social selves. Cellphones must be turned off and put away. The goal is to disconnect with technology and to connect with one another and themselves. Students struggle to maintain eye contact; they work to develop a psycho/physical connection for what they think, feel and do; they concentrate for longer and longer periods of time. They read plays; they memorize text; they learn to follow their impulses to create movement, gesture, intimacy, community.”

Moore goes on to talk about the importance of foresight and empathy that theater students develop.  She calls theater school an “empathy boot camp” and believes acting skills are vital for a generation of students who are apparently lacking empathy and who are constantly distracted.  Moore concludes her article by saying, “As technology and machines consume more and more of life, perhaps theater can help us remember what it means to act like a human.”

Tracey Moore knows what’s crack-a-lackin’.  Technology will only continue to advance.  While there is nothing inherently wrong with that, it’s important that we do not lose ourselves in a wave of excitement over the latest technological advances.  It’s become so easy to become seduce by technology that we don’t fully comprehend how bad the situation is.  We are creatures of habit.  We adapt to change, but it’s important to not adapt blindly.

Nicholas Carr has two great quotes that go along with this idea of blind adaptation:

“With everyone expecting to manage their lives through screens, society naturally adapts its routines and procedures to fit the routines and procedures of the computer.”

“As we habituate ourselves to it, the technology comes to exert more power over us, not less.”

We become more computer-like when at the whim of our devices.  Theater, on the other hand, teaches us how to be human.  Theater teaches us how to empathize.  It teaches us how to connect to one another.  It teaches us how to relate to one another and how to communicate effectively.  Theater teaches us the importance of eye contact and helps develop keen listening skills.  It builds up our focus and presence in the moment.  Theater does not function without these skills.

And I would argue that life doesn’t really work without these skills either.  These are the skills that help filter out all of the hate, misogyny, racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and all the other gross stuff that pollutes our connections with one another.  Yet, these skills, whether it be effective communication, focus, or empathy, are declining at a rapid pace.  Most signs point excessive technology use as the cause of such a decline.  I can go on about the negative impact this is having on the minds of children and adolescents, but that’s a whole other post.

A good question to bring up is why schools and other educational environments tend to cut arts programs first, theater being one of those?  Oh, lordy lordy.  That school does not realize what it’s doing.  The reason for this is because most do not realize the psychological, cognitive benefits of being involved with theater, or even with the arts in general.  The skills developed are life skills that have the potential to set these kids up for life, especially nowadays.  Theater is a great way to balance out the rise of technology.  As I’ve said many times on this blog, technology is not a bad thing.  It’s great!  And I’m personally excited to see all the neat, new innovations that come out in the years ahead.  But we can’t leave our humanity behind and submit ourselves unknowingly to the machines.  Theater keeps us grounded.  Theater brings us back to humanity.  Theater makes us feel and understand.  This will only become more and more important as time and technology progress.

What are your thoughts, friends?  Do you find theater and other artistic forms to be this important?  Can we all benefit in the development of these skillsets?  Comment below!


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