While many theatre companies have adapted during the pandemic by streaming performances online, nothing can replace the magic of audiences seated together in an auditorium watching a live show. Now that there is a vaccine, restrictions are likely to loosen up over time. The box office will once again be open and selling tickets so people can see their favorite performer, live and in-person, on a stage dressed with majestic sets and colorful lights beaming across the auditorium to help set the mood. Let’s not forget about the communal sounds of laughter, cheers, and applause from the audience reverberating off the walls. Not only do I believe that people will return to watch live theatre, I believe that it will be even more popular than before the pandemic. The renaissance of live theatre is just around the corner.
New audiences have been created due to theatre companies streaming performances online. People who have never experienced plays or musicals have now been introduced to this form of entertainment from their local community or professional theatre company. Watching performances online has surely sparked their curiosity. “What would it be like to watch this show in person,” they might be asking themselves. Yes, it is hard to believe that there might be some who have never seen a show in person, but let’s not be naïve in thinking that this does not exist. True, watching online is not live theatre, but it is does serve as an introduction or advertisement, if you will, of what it has to offer and why it is so entertaining and fulfilling. Not only that, watching a play or musical is an experience that can’t be duplicated at home on a computer. People must be seated with others in the audience, watching live performers, in order to have the true theatre experience.
There is hope that a renaissance of live theatre is just around the corner.
For a moment, let me bring in the film industry to help explain why I believe a renaissance is coming. In many areas, audiences are able to go back to movie houses, but with Netflix and the ability to watch first run movies on cable, are they even needed? They might see a temporary increase in popularity, but I think movie ticket sales will fizzle out fast as audiences realize that, these days, they can get a near movie theater experience at home. In the comfort of their own living rooms, people can control the sound level of the movie, pause for bathroom breaks or snacks, and, importantly, they don’t have to hear other people talking during the film. And let’s not get started on the price of popcorn! Perhaps drive-in theaters will retain their current popularity, but I see regular movie houses struggling to keep audiences interested.
As much as I enjoy watching films, being secluded during COVID has made me realize how much I miss being around people. That is why live theatre is a much more fulfilling experience. Good, live performers connect with their audience, drawing them into the story. Conversely, a live audience encourages the performers with their applause. It is difficult to have that special kind of connection with a movie screen. What do you miss most about live theatre?
The theatre companies that have survived the pandemic have done so by selling tickets to performances streamed online and the generous support of organizations like theatreWashington. For example, the Taking Care Fund is an initiative of theatreWashington, “created to meet a critical need in our community—assisting currently active Washington area theatre professionals experiencing unforeseen financial hardship.” As theatre companies begin to slowly open up their box offices, I encourage you to support them by purchasing tickets and going out to see a show. If you really want to help contribute to the renaissance of live theatre, consider buying tickets for your friends as gifts. For those who are really fortunate, why not buy tickets for families unable to afford to go to the theatre.
The magic of live theatre is meant to be enjoyed and experienced by all, not just a lucky few. There is hope for large audiences filling theatres and concert halls once again. There is hope that a renaissance of live theatre is just around the corner.