The first musical I ever saw was The Lion King when it came to TPAC when I was a little kid. I remember being so amazed with the costumes, the singing, the story line, and the energy and emotions of the cast. I felt fear when Scar was on stage singing “Be Prepared” and when the hyenas started to rally behind him. When I saw Wicked my sophomore year, I already had a great appreciation and understanding for the show and thought that I would just sing along with it because I thought I knew the story already. Boy was I wrong. I knew what was happening already and I could easily keep up with it. But what I didn’t anticipate was the visuals that I now associate with the show.
The amount of raw emotion and depth that the show lends to the audience was something completely new to me. I cried throughout the show at parts of betrayal, moral shifts, and plot twists. When Elphaba and Galinda sang the iconic song “Defying Gravity”, I cried because you could actually feel their friendships breaking and where their true loyalties fell. Since then, I have always made it a point to really pay attention to what is happening in the shows because connecting to the characters is when you truly start to get something out of the performance. Theatre, at its core, is a social outlet and place of expression. When you go to the theatre and watch a play or a musical, you are immersed in the language and culture of countless places both real and fictional. It provides many benefits to its patrons including, but not limited to a rise in empathy, tolerance, and critical thinking. It is also quite entertaining because of the possibility that anything could happen at any time for any reason.
When we go see a live theatrical performance, the characters are who we learn from. Their story is what we go to see, and their emotions become our emotions. We put ourselves into the shoes of the characters we see, and we often feel what they feel during times of happiness, sadness, anger, hatred, etc. “I like [having] an emotional upwelling. I forget my life and I pay attention to what’s happening, and then I can feel things based on my interpretation of what people are feeling. ”, states Maia Kenny’s friend and colleague. When we feel happy or sad or angry with a character, we are being empathetic and growing our own abilities to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and relate to them on a deeper emotional level in the real world. There was a study that the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville started in which there was a group of kids who were entered a lottery. Those who won the lottery were taken to go see live theatre performances. These kids who were taken to see the live shows were measured against their classmates who did not attend the performances. The study found that the kids who saw the shows demonstrated higher levels of tolerance and empathy. After each performance, the children were asked a series of questions about what the story and language of the show. The kids who saw the live performance showed a better understanding of the what they saw and heard. Those kids who only read or watched a filmed version, showed a lower understanding of what they read or watched.
One statement every kid was given was, “Plays critical of America should not be allowed to be performed in the community. ” Each child was asked to either disagree or agree with this statement. Of the kids who saw the live version, 9% agreed with the statement. While 21% of the kids who didn’t see the show live agreed with the statement. Theatre is something that is meant to be seen live. Every time you go see a play or musical, you never know what is going to happen. Is someone going to mess up their lines? Is a piece of scenery going to fall over? Is a character going to get injured while on stage? These are just a few of the hundreds of things that could happen during a show. Each one makes the show unique. It can be good or bad, but it will be unique nonetheless. I have seen the musical Wicked two times now. Once in New York my sophomore year and one when it stopped in Nashville at TPAC. Besides the obvious change in location, I saw two completely different shows. The cast from the New York version and the Nashville version were all different. So right off the bat we have two sets of people who interpret their characters in different ways. The set were also different because the stage in New York was made for the show while the one in TPAC is made to have many shows come through during their season and use the stage. Another time when I compared the same show with someone was this summer when I was at Governors School for the Arts.
The theatre department was taken to see Waitress at TPAC. I had no clue what the show was about and spoiler alert, I ugly cried in the back row of the grand tier for a solid amount of the show. Do I feel sorry for that? The answer is no, but one thing that I knew was not supposed to happen was the male lead’s voice giving out during a duet with the female lead. He powered through, but you could tell that it was out of place. My friend saw it a few days later and I asked her if his voice did the same thing and she said that he sounded quite strong vocally. This further shows that you never know what’s going to happen. This is part of the reason that seeing a show live is sop much fun as well because it is never the same no matter how many times you see it. Live theatre is an amazing thing and is very important to people of all ages. It helps further out abilities to connect with other people, grow in our critical thinking skills, and entertain us with its unpredictable nature.