Why Theatre Matters

(Image via Cinema Treasures)

(Image via Cinema Treasures)

Lizzie Lohrer, Editor in Chief

The lights dim in the auditorium. I settle into my seat in the light booth and wait for the final cue. The lights come up for the last time on Act One, Scene One, and I listen intently as the actors’ voices ring clearly through the theater, the familiar words washing over me as the last show begins. There’s a feeling of relief but also melancholy as I watch the scene unfold for the last time, a feeling that everyone in the theatre department knows all too well‒it’s the feeling that accompanies the end of every production.

Not even a week later, as I ask Madison Howarth about the recent production of Much Ado About Nothing, her tone is fondly reminiscent. As we sit in the crowded cafeteria, voices loud around us, she speaks almost reverently about her character, Beatrice. As one of the leads in Forest Grove High School’s most recent production, Madison spent a couple of months learning every aspect of her character. Beatrice is often seen as one of Shakespeare’s best female characters, but many struggle with how to balance her independence with her eventual love for Benedick. Madison, though, has no trouble owning Beatrice’s confidence and power. “I love Beatrice so, so much,” she tells me. This play is one of Madison’s favorites, and certainly her favorite Shakespeare, and her admiration of the play and its characters is obvious in her voice as she speaks. “[Beatrice is] so smart and such a caring character. She really loves passionately…and she’s funny and she’s intelligent, which I feel like are attributes that weren’t often given to female characters in Shakespeare. She’s so independent…and incredible.” Madison gestures with her hands as she talks, so passionate about the character that she was given the opportunity to portray. The show has completed it’s run, but it’s clear that the overall impact still lingers, with Madison and the other cast members. 

Like any good show, Much Ado About Nothing was never boring. Even after seeing it night after night from up in the light booth, I still looked forward to each performance. Each performance had a kind of magic that you only find on stage, in a theater, when a group of people comes together to tell a story that they care deeply about.

“It was just a really fun experience,” Joshua King (Leonato), says when asked about the production. Joshua has been doing theatre since his Freshman year and, now a Junior, does double duty as both Technical Director and actor. When asked about why theatre is important to him, he talks lovingly, obviously grateful for the experiences he’s had as a part of the theatre department, as both technician and actor. He knows the inner workings of the theater better than most, and gets excited about theatre more than most as well. “Theatre is important because it allows people to express themselves and…allows them to open their eyes to the things around them and be able to understand different things through the stories that are told,” he tells me, fidgeting in his seat as he does. After several years of knowing him, the only time I’ve seen him completely calm is onstage, when he’s focused solely on becoming somebody else and putting on the best performance that he can. When asked where he’d be without theatre, he talks about the confidence that theatre has given him, on stage and in life. “[Theatre] gave me the ability to be able to understand my identity more,” he confesses. I’ve heard similar things from his castmates. Andres Melgar Aguilar (Claudio) spoke to me about how being in a production changes the way you act, saying that “it gives you a new perspective” and “makes you think a different way.” He explained to me how playing a character onstage forces you to think about yourself in relation to that character in a way that sticks with you even after closing night. Seamus Robison (Benedick) said that one of his favorite parts of the production was how he “got to learn a lot about other people as well as [himself] as an actor.” He went on to say that “[he] thinks a lot of [why he enjoys theatre] has to do with becoming somebody else. [He’s] always been fascinated with the idea of becoming somebody different. When [he’s] onstage…[he is] another human in the same body, [he is] somebody completely different.” 

When asked what she felt was most important about theatre, Elanor Wilger (Hero) spoke about how “you end up bonding with [your cast members]…you’re kind of like a family.” The camaraderie between the cast came up throughout my conversations with various cast members. Over and over again, I heard about the lasting friendships that come from spending hours upon hours with a group of people. There’s a particular understanding and closeness between cast members that I’ve never witnessed except in theatre. It was a feeling that ran like a current through all of the rehearsals and performances and a feeling that sticks with me even after the show is finished. 

At its core, theatre is, as Joshua told me, “a great community of people who want to tell a story and who want to have fun together.” At its core, theatre is a group of people committed to telling a good story. At its core, theatre can’t be fully described. Everyone I spoke to tried to describe the effect of theatre but had a hard time putting into words the incredible feeling of putting on a good show, of creating art and sharing a story through that art. At its core, theatre is art and communication and learning and introspection‒it’s every emotion at once, and it’s a beautiful thing to experience.

The Theatre department’s next production, The Diary of Anne Frank, opens April 10th at 7:00 pm with performances April 11th, 17th, and 18th at 7:00 pm and an April 18th matinee at 1:00 pm.