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BWW Feature: LIVE THEATER MATTERS in Delaware

BWW Feature: LIVE THEATER MATTERS in Delaware

103,000 deaths...and counting, and still we want live theatre to return. More than 40 million Americans filed for first time unemployment benefits, and still we want live theatre to return. Consumer spending ground to a halt in the past 2 months, and that's a massive problem for the spending-addicted US economy; down 14% in April, equivalent to $1.9 trillion lost. And yet, we still want live theatre to return.

We wear our masks. We socially distance. We forget what day it is.

Give us Andrew Lloyd Webber free re-runs of PHANTOM and JOSEPH'S DREAMCOAT. (We'll pass on the CATS movie). Give us Netfilx. Give us Hulu. Give us virtual productions. Just give us something.

This might seem inappropriate, as if our priorities are misplaced. This is not inappropriate. For idolizers of live performance this is innate. This is the importance of the performing arts in our culture. To understand why we are in such a hurry to have them resume, I proffer two words: Perfection and Connection.

Perfection. The magnetism of the arts is born of the natural human desire for transcendence, to achieve and bear witness to be associated with something bigger, deeper and more meaningful than other parts of your life.

Whether it's reveling in hearing a soprano on at Candlelight hit a high C and holding it for 16 bars, whether it's experiencing an impeccable pas de deux during First State Ballet's Nutcracker, whether it's seeing a gray haired rock and roller at The Grand you grew up with and recalling fond memories of youth, whether it's witnessing compelling drama at DTC and UD REP, whether it be the synchronicity of 1300 hearts pounding in concert to legendary Broadway tunes at The Playhouse; these are points of perfection that we don't experience in our humdrum lives. It's live and makes us feel alive!

Live performance is like sports. Both demonstrate the scope of human possibility. That which cannot be comprehended becomes reality on stage, right before your eyes. It is no coincidence that the ancient Greeks conceived the God Dionysus, the patron of theatre. (He was also the God of drunken debauchery, but I digress). It also is no coincidence that Broadway had its best year ever in 2019, while church attendance has declined over the past two decades. (Book of Mormon may have had something to do with that:-)).

There is a need for us to look for something perfect. We see performers at the top of their craft. It is something tangible. They sign autographs. They commune with us. They do selfies with us. And when they are not there for us, we miss them.

Connection. There is a term used by academics: "BIRGing": Basking in Reflected Glory. Theatre is the ideal setting. The two major parties are weaker than they have ever been. Presidential leadership, to be kind, is abysmal. Sycophantic Republican Congress members lack spine, cowered by a despotic 'leader' who hasn't a clue and whose singular interest in being reelected is to keep out of jail. No potential to BIRG here.

In a recent Pew Research, the number of people who describe themselves as 'Christian' dropped 12% in the last decade and the number of people who identify with 'nothing in particular' rose 9%.

Live performance gives us a chance to BIRG, to connect with family, friends and to meet new ones. It inspires our kids. It provides us with a sense of identity, of community, of self-worth and happiness.

What is being a theatre fan if not seizing the opportunity to view yourself through the prism of your favorite artist or your favorite theatre? We are social people. We are hungry for content. We need live theatre.

That communal bonding may seem more necessary than ever, even if it comes by sitting by yourself, 6 feet apart from the next patron.

Greer Firestone, Playwright, Producer, Actor and Author


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