Questions of Realness

A post by Thalia Goldstein.

Theatre is obviously artifice. An audience pays money, sets a date and a time they will go to the theater, walks in, sits down all facing the same way, and waits for the lights to go out.

Meanwhile, actors, directors, and designers rehearse, prepare, raise money, and rehearse some more, and then arrive backstage 30 minutes before the audience walks in to put on costumes and make up, and warm up their bodies, voices, and minds to portray fictional characters in a fictional world.

Yet at the same time, theatre is particularly real. All art relies on a language of representation. Visual art uses paint, sculpture, decoupage, etc, to express an idea. Music uses sound; Literature, the written word. Dance uses the body and face, but in a way we hardly ever see in daily life. Theatre is unique. Theatre uses real humans, saying real words, and interacting with each other in realistic ways. Even if the play is not realistic, even in the most experimental of theater, humans are still there, behaving. How do we understand this realness? How do we balance automatic reactions (e.g. person processing) with an imagined, presented scenario?

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