Why is it worth going to the theater?
Theatre is one of the oldest forms of theatre play. Since the Stone Age, men and women tell stories, staging them when there was no language. Ancient Greek theatre continues to inspire us and they are still staged in all languages of the world. Ancient Hindu scriptures consider the text of the theory of the performing arts (Natya Shashtra) to be the fifth Veda (Pancham Veda). And like the Greek theatre, the ancient Indian theatre of Sanskrit was also very developed. However, with the advent of film and television, the theatre stood before a battle uphill to draw in the crowd.
Drama writers, companies and theatre groups had to reinvent themselves in many ways. Sometimes they succeeded, but we still have a long way to go. Technological progress in film and television media continues to attract audiences with its splendour and splendor. But we don’t realize that theatre has its own charm. Thornton Wilder, a famous playwright, once said: “I consider theatre to be the biggest of all forms of art, the most direct way in which a person can share with another sense of what it is to be human. This dominance of theatre is due to the fact that it is always “now” on stage.
There is something magical about watching a group of actors performing on stage, telling you a story that you share with a hall full of people. Arthur Miller said: “I have the impression that the people in the group, on a mass scale, on a mass scale, watching something, react differently and maybe deeper than in the living room. When we watch live theatre on stage, we can feel, we can see ourselves – when we watch good theatre, we almost go through an experience that changes our lives.
The power of the stage is enormous – because it’s real, it’s not false like in movies. Thornton Wilder put it this way: “We live in what is, but we find a thousand ways not to face it. The great theatre strengthens our department to face it. It’s not the case that nobody goes to the theatre today. In 2005, 12.5 million people visited the Broadway show in New York and about 8.5 million people went to the theatre outside Broadway. For good quality regional theatres, it’s also difficult to get a ticket if you don’t buy it in advance.
But the most neglected theatre in the US is community theatre. They are hard to push to get a good audience. They have to rely on these small grants and donations from various sponsors. Ethnic theatre groups (like ours), which run the theatre in their regional languages, even have a limited audience. We often have to face a challenge – how can we fill our theatres with our own audience?
The problem is that most of the plays we produce are not connected with the people around us. They don’t feel this electrifying experience when they watch the renaissance or old classics of the Bengali theatre. The only value is the nostalgia that these plays evoke in us, nothing else.
The second thing is that these performances do not have the power of the stars to attract the audience. Some groups have tried to bring actors and directors from India in order to attract audiences, but that cannot be the solution. And finally, of course, it is a lack of production funds, which are necessary to rent a theatre space, to create a great stage and to sell a performance in popular media such as television.
To attract audiences, the first condition is that we have to let people know about the event. Affordable marketing methods such as online marketing, some printed media, leaflets and posters can only reach a limited number of people. However, I think that in order to attract audiences in this country, the first thing we need to do is to develop our own theatre that can easily connect with our people.
We need to develop and produce performances that can reflect our own life on stage and only then will our people be interested in coming to see their own plays. We (Ethnomedia Center for Theater Arts) have been trying to do this for some time and we have been partially successful. ENAD, another theatre group in the Gulf region, has also adopted the same philosophy. But we have a long way to go.
But I think we have to start somewhere. Secondly, I think we need to create a permanent database of theatre lovers who would like to watch our plays and then find out what are the best ways to reach them (e-mail, snail mail, whatever it may be.) Creating a subscriber database is standard practice for many social theatres, but since we don’t have a regular schedule of performances planned well in advance, it’s difficult for viewers to plan their schedule around it. And finally, the audience should feel the need to go to the theatre.
If someone does not feel excited about going to the theatre, experiencing life in front of them, listening to and experiencing stories about themselves, nothing can work.