The Nutcracker, The Stag King, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, are all plays that I have paid to see in Chicago. Was it worth the ticket price? The cost of driving and finding parking? Or even the cost of walking around the city at night? Absolutely.
All of the shows mentioned above vary in cost, production value, theater and audience size, and general popularity. However, all of these shows, and I have seen many more, have enriched my life greatly and included me in on an experience that connects me to art more than a movie could ever do.
When I was a freshman in college I took a theater class, believing it would lead me to make a decision about my major. It did help me in making my decision, just not in the way that favored a theater major. I am not quite as artistically emotional as many others that I had met in my theater class, but I was still greatly impacted my enjoyment in this form of art. This class was very inclusive in the production process of theater, even requiring us to help behind the scenes in a theater show for 25 hours. Among all of these requirements we also had to view three plays throughout the semester. The performances we saw spanned different types of production values, but still had individual meaningful messages within the shows.
The average person watches 4 hours of TV every single day in the United States. This statistic proves that Americans are comfortable in the environment that they inhabit and don’t experience the outside world as often as the world that is represented through a television.This world is characterized by Hollywood’s intentions. Matthew B. Crawford in his book, The World Beyond Your Head, argues the theory that technological advances, especially including television, computer, or phone screens, shows mankind a falsified reality. Crawford explains that when people partake in the external world in a very physical manner it furthers the human experience of reality. I would argue that going to a theatrical performance is engaging in a more real sense of life and the world around us compared to that of keeping our eyes down on a screen.
In one of the first plays I saw as an adult, The Stag King, I glimpsed a different sense of reality that I had not experienced before. This play was extremely artistic. It may sound “gimmicky”, but puppets were used to portray characters that could not be brought into a small theater, for instance, a stag. The story told the history of a magical land with fictional characters, yet there was a deep connection to human reality involved. The music ranged from heavy rock music to softer instrumental songs. This gave the effect of many different moods that we as humans experience on a daily journey of emotions. The lesson to be learned from this play was that art and entertainment are happening in a very deep and meaningful way, even in a small theater in Chicago, with a titled play that very few have heard of. The intimate setting of the play made the event a communal one and joined the audience together in an experience that cannot be had in a living room. I urge the general public to support art in such a personal way as viewing a play that may be very unexpected. You may find that you are surprised in a very good way, enjoying an “out of the box” moment with strangers, feeling more connected to reality than if a television screen was telling an audience what reality really looks like.
Another performance I saw in Chicago that further affirms my claim that theater performances are worth the money and travel is from a show that many will recognize. The Nutcracker was a performance that I had wanted to see for many years, ever since I was little girl. I had always loved ballet, even though I never had the nerve to commit myself to be a ballerina. I thought ballet was one of the most beautifully athletic art forms. When I was finally able to experience The Nutcracker live I was able to experience art in a whole new way. The dancers matched the music’s rhythm perfectly, timing every step to every staccato plucking of a violin. I understood how strong a person had to be to lift another person high into the air and back down again with so much grace. I was enveloped in the story of friendship and adventure and imagined my own life as a tale of artistic form. Empathizing with the dancers, the musicians, and creators of this performance gave me so much joy that I do not experience when I watch a movie or television show.
Walking around the city, grabbing a bite from a local restaurant, and seeing a live theater performance makes for a very interactive night. Going to a theater show in Chicago is an experience that the Millennial generation needs to grab a hold of so as to not leave the emotional and artistic nature of mankind behind in the intoxicating environment of mass media.