Rachel Grossman: Start right off with the big nebulous question: define theatre.
Ralph Remington: Theatre is actor and an audience.
RR: Period. I like to boil things down to the most simplistic. Actor, audience, and elements. But at its most simple form: actor and audience. Then once you have that, then you have source material—whether it’s devised or a script—then you have theatre.
Rachel Grossman: I’m opening all of these conversations with the big question--what is theatre?
Julianne Brienza: Theatre is something that is in the moment. Like, it’s not recorded. You have to take it in--in the moment--and then it’s gone.
And you have to be there, in person, to experience it.
I think you can use all these different elements, and I mean, we’ve live broadcasted shows. But: re-watching live broadcast on your computer? I mean, who wants to really do that? unless it’s something you’ve never--
Who really wants to do that? (It’s like “bringing the masses” to do that.)
Rachel Grossman: Let’s start by just jumping right into the deep-end: what is theatre?
Peter Marks: What I always think of are the ancient masks of comedy and tragedy. It’s at some level first about the heart, and eventually also becomes about the mind. Either something that makes you laugh or cry; the difference for theatre is that you are a live witness for that thing.
At the elemental level, it’s an appeal to the emotions in a way that other forms may not hit you quite as viscerally.
rg: Can you talk more about that last thought? What’s the difference between, say a really good episode of Homeland or Downton Abbey and a really good play?
While working at Round House Theatre, the Education & Outreach staff and I created an introductory activity: “What is theatre?” We employed it with participants up and down the age range, in one-off workshops and to launch semester-long residencies. The activity: in small groups participants were assigned two tasks 1) write a definition of theatre; 2) make it. Or, in other words: script, then show.
It never ceased to amaze me how much theater was defined by location and the titles of the makers: theater occurs on a stage and is a written script, performed by actors, with a director who tells them what to do; the actors wear costumes and perform on a set.