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Stella Adler once quoted “The word theatre comes from the Greeks. It means the seeing place. It is the place people come to see the truth about life and the social situation (brainy quote).” Theatre is a form of art, and expression expressed through a play or some sort of dynamic presentation that attracts the audience through various forms of devices and symbols. Unlike other forms of art, theatre focuses mainly on human beings and depicts every quality a human could have. Through the various forms of genres, this art finely depicts each and every characteristic of a human through sound, lighting, dialogue, costumes, makeup, etc. It catches any moment or feeling and freezes it, or embraces it through a lively dynamic presentation of it. It is almost as if theatre mimics everything about humans and tells one’s story. Theatre imitates reality by expressing the human qualities and concepts, but it is also a concept that erupted from someone else’s perception. The audience or the average lives are also players upon a stage.

The setting and stage changes as people as players progress in the play aka their life. In one’s own realities there are light changes that symbolize emotional stages. One could have a variety of costumes and masks, as far as how the setting is or how the environment proceeds. People have on stage realities and behind the curtain ones and at the end, it comes down to perception. That is the greatness of the theatre, the engagement it has with its audience. Throughout history, theatre has played this mimicking and mirror-like role and one can see how that has changed and the continual impact it has on society. The earliest origins of theatre are traced back to the Athens, and in these times, these practices were done to glorify their Gods. “Ancient hymns, called dithyrambs, were sung in honor of the god Dionysus. These hymns were later adapted for choral processions in which participants would dress up in costumes and masks. Eventually, certain members of the chorus evolved to take special roles within the procession, but they were not yet actors in the way we would understand it (PBS.org) .” At an early start of this art, it gave people an opportunity to offer their Gods through a creative and set apart way.

This same pattern could be seen in different cultures around the world. No matter if it is African theatre, Greek, Chinese, or Roman they all began as an offering or ritual for their Gods or had some sort of religious influence that was a new form of leisure to them. From there has evolved to the theatre that is commonly known today. African theatre is actually a very interesting place to start when studying the impact of theatre on society. In African theatre one can see all of the cultural and linguistic changes that have evolved because of trade. The richness of African theatre is due to the interaction it has had with the rest of the world, through colonialism, and slavery. One can see the different beliefs and customs that take part in the performances. On an article from Britannica, it states the following, “Ghana produced two of Africa’s most-accomplished women playwrights, Efua Sutherland and Ama Ata Aidoo. Sutherland’s plays were written in Akan and in English. Foriwa (first performed 1962) and Edufa (first performed 1962) dealt with political issues relevant to the challenges of independence. The Marriage of Anansewa (1975) is a witty but still politically relevant comedy in a form she described as anansegoro (Martin Banham).” Anasegoro means modern storytelling as a narrative trope in contemporary Ghanaian literary theatre. These playwrights had a major impact on Ghanaian society as far as women’s rights and how marriage was handled.

It gave an insight on how African culture dealt with arranged marriage. All the different genres provide the audience different experiences and content. It could be historical or dealing with a political concern. Or it could also very well represent a culture or share ideas on love, money, power, etc. Theatre could be about just about anything and the best part about it is that this form of art picks up every detail and portrays everything so accurate that so easily, fiction can seem as real. One example is the play, A Raisin in the Sun which is a play by Lorraine Hansberry. This play was first seen on Broadway in the late 1950s, a really important time in history. This is a play about the experiences of a family living in a complex of Chicago as they were working on “improving “ their lifestyles with an insurance check they received after the death of their father. This play very well represents the life of the African American working class in the fifties and captivated the audience during this time period and had a major cultural impact.

First off, the setting in this play was cramped and it depicted the struggles faced by the characters and their urge to want to improve their lifestyles just how many people in real life lived. The setting is extremely confined, especially with five people living in it. On stage, one could see the kitchen, which is so small that it’s more like a closet. Their kid has to sleep on the couch and they have to share the bathroom with the rest of the floor. Most of the play’s action goes down in the living room, which also serves as the dining room. The setting only had one window and it was one facing a brick wall and no natural light came through. It was a turning point in America, the decade that brought the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement and thousands were able to see this play. “The play was well received by both Africans and American since the player could relate to the audience’s lives. The play shows the views of society as it illustrates the segregation that took place during that time period. The Clybourne Park was an all-white neighborhood that did not want any Africans living in the neighborhood shows the segregation lifestyles. The power of money and social class is shown throughout the play Sarah Ahmad, Manesy Cevallos, Sapan Doshi & Rachel Kim) . “ Unlike other forms of art, theatre can do so much more than portraying emotion or just the appearance of something. Theatre allows people to tell whole stories, and serve as a medium to express political issues like segregation, brutality, death and so much more. Paintings and music could only capture so much, but theatre captures everything.

Lorraine was able to tell her story and made it as relatable and similar as could be. Theatre has an impact on not only the audience but the producers, actors, and authors as well. Lorraine had theatre as a medium to express all her concerns and ideas, which impacted her in a positive way because to be able to express is a relieving feeling and it always is satisfying to have people relate to one’s ideas. Because then not only are you a voice to your own ideas but also to the ideas of others. Lorraine Hansberry, through just one play she was able to touch on topics like abortion, poverty, feminism, the American dream, family, culture, laws, money and other important things from the fifties and even today. On the other spectrum, people working in the theatre industry can receive negative feedback and that can hold a negative impact on them as far as self esteem. For instance the actors, they can receive all sorts of hate whether it is discriminatory or jealousy, or because they are thought to be as their role in the play. African Americans received lots of this in early decades. They received it from the audience and the producers as well. There were always cultural stereotypes seen on stage. Black performers would always get the servant roles and they would merely get one or two scenes. They received scenes where they were just in the shadows and they didn’t even get any dialogue. “Eclipse, published yesterday by the Arts Council of England and the Theatrical Management Association.

Their study, researched in 1998-99, found only one in 25 theatre workers came from an ethnic-minority background. It also found that 23 out of 463 board members of theatres were non-white, and none was from an Asian background (Arifa Akbar 2002).” Another group that has been affected in theatre are the homosexuals. “ ‘Theatre is gay’ is the usual extent of rationale behind most opposition of theatre. ‘Why do you wear that makeup when you’re a guy? You look stupid’ Hateful comments such as these often cause serious problems with people’s emotions. On top of the extensive homophobia, people also tend to make mean comments about how they think people look stupid when they are acting and that they are making a fool of them (Sanders 2012).” But theatre has also been a place where they have found themselves and were able to strive and express themselves. Many successful plays actually had gays in them and they appealed to the crowd despite some hatred along the way. Major playwrights like Love! Valor! Compassion!, Torch, Angels in America. Ironically enough though, despite the racism that was first experienced in theatre, theatre alone was the window of expression to many of these people.

The 1930’s Federal Theatre project, for instance, was the platform for new African American performers and artists who wanted to work in the industry. “The Negro Theatre Project (NTP), was set up in 23 cities throughout the United States. This short-lived (1935-1939) project provided much-needed employment and apprenticeships to hundreds of black actors, directors, theatre technicians, and playwrights. It was a major boost for African American theatre during the Depression era (Black Post.org).”So here alone it is seen that theatre not only is a window to minority talent but also impacts society in a positive way and contributes to the economy. Another remarkable play is the play Chicago, by Rob Marshall. As the title suggests, this film is set in Prohibition-era Chicago. This plays deals with violence, crime, admiration, society, and class. Chicago does a good job of showing how all these were used to appeal and control society not only in the play but also mimics how it really was in real life during the 1920s. This play is about ex-Broadway performers who were Two girls with beautiful appearance who ended up being put in the same block in prison both guilty of murder. One of them is named Roxie she is an America’s sweetheart blonde, She killed her lover a guy she would always see at the bar despite her husband being present.

The other girl is a brunette of her name is Velma, she is a star as well and was put in jail for killing her husband and sister, after catching them in bed together. What this play is symbolic about this play is for how it depicts how the real Chicago was in the 20s in the sense that crime was glorified in the media. In other words, many times criminals became celebrities. For instance, Al Capone who despite his crimes he was idolized for his fame and fortune. Chicago also shows the power media plays in society and how the truth can so easily be corrupted. Nowadays, due to all of the new technology, it has become harder to actually see the impact of theater, especially in some places where normal civilians cannot afford to go to a show and it is underdeveloped. Ironically, that is how theatre once started though. Long before there were cell phones computers, and other modern technologies, such as radios and televisions people would go to the theatre for entertainment. All sorts of social classes attended, the poor and the rich in the evenings to see plays being performed.

Shakespeare, as everyone was taught in school, is by far the most recognized and heard of. He was one of the most popular back then and for the most part, if you were to go to a play many times it was most likely written by him. Some of his works include Henry IV, Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Othello and many more. Shakespeare overall was really influential and definitely impacted society, not only then but even today. Shakespeare’s plays and writings left a mark on our language and influenced how we spoke. ”These catchy titles barely gesture to Shakespeare’s influence on the minutiae of our lives. If you’ve ever been ‘in a pickle’, waited ‘with bated breath’, or gone on ‘a wild goose chase’, you’ve been quoting from The Tempest, The Merchant of Venice and Romeo and Juliet respectively (Hephzibah Anderson).” His plays impacted theatre and society because before him no playwrights were as appealing to the masses. His play not only mimicked the average characteristics of being a human but also dealt with great issues concerning human existence and universal truths that went beyond just mirror reflecting an average life. “An estimated 1700 common words we use today are attributed to the works of Shakespeare. However, there has been much debate by critics as to whether Shakespeare actually invented these words (Murray 2015).” Overall, throughout history, theater has provided many things to society, but it is important to acknowledge and understand that theater is an art that has more depth than just the literal that is seen. Theatre is not only about the actors performing, on a singing on stage. Today not even technology has stopped the great influence of theatre. Theatre is still very popular today attracting thousands to watch new and innovative plays. One of the most successful plays of this era has been Hamilton. Hamilton is a one of a kind American Musical that is actually rapped through all the way. It is a musical about the life of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.

This captivating musical, includes historical lyrics, with a touch of new hip hop beats, rhythm, and blues, pop music. It also includes a bit of soul music. The unique thing about this is that it has nonwhite actors playing the roles of the Founding Fathers and other historical figures. It has been so popular and advertised on television, Facebook, Instagram, and reviewed by many bloggers. It has been one of the greatest of this time. The Broadway world critique rating for this play is a high 9.68 out of 10 stars. An article in the magazine Vanity fair states the following, “If you saw any Alexander Hamilton’s bewigged this Halloween, it isn’t because founding fathers are so hot right now. It’s thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose history-packed rap musical, Hamilton, has taken the world far beyond Broadway by storm. Even fans who live across the country with no plans to travel to New York, or who could only get tickets in February, are obsessing over every single lyric in the soundtrack and then tweeting their love for #Hamiltunes.

High-brow music writers have tackled the rap and musical-theater references, and superfans have collaborated notes for every song on Genius (Alex Beggs).” It has not stopped there, now recently there is a Mean Girls Musical that is attracting many to Broadway to experience the live performance of one of top teen comedy movies in a musical. Basically, the movie itself is about a new girl who comes from Africa, she is a bit unfamiliar with how American schools have cliques at school, so she tries to make new friends and ends up becoming friends with the most popular clique called the “plastics” little does she know why they got that name. It is a whole lot of high school drama that goes on but all throughout it is a very funny movie. Seeing this particular movie become a play is actually something very cool because lots of teens are not intrigued or interest in going to see a musical or a play. This, however, attracts them and shows how theatre still holds an influence and people still can enjoy a good and innovative music.

The rating for this play is a 7 out of 10 which is still really high considering that the audience alone is mainly teens. A comment on Broadway World stated the following, “Vibrant, beautifully sung and visually splendid, this funny charmer – book by Fey, music by Jeff Richmond and lyrics by Nell Benjamin – broadens the original Paramount movie – a bar-raiser for teen flicks – to full musical comedy scale without sacrificing any of the mordancy and compassion that made a superstar of Lindsay Lohan and a generational descriptor of the title (Gregg Evans 2018).” Besides the actual experience and the impact that has on the audience, the theatre has also had a good impact on society in regards to jobs. This form of art has opened the doors to many writers, to many actors, makeup artist, lighting artists, architects, musicians, producers, and the industry alone provides the economy good income. It has done so throughout history and it does so to this day. “The theater industry that dominates Midtown brought more than $12 billion into the city in 2016 alone.

All that economic activity added up to more than $1 billion paid to city and state taxes, according to The Broadway League that represents theater owners, general managers and producers in New York and around the country (Ginger Adams Otis 2017.)” It is hard to believe that theatre could bring billions to a city but realistically it is possible. This is not just from counting the sales of the actual tickets. This includes everything from employment for these actors, producers, stylists, musicians, even maintenance people. Not only that but Hamilton alone last year attracted people from all around the world, so imagine the sales for restaurants, hotels, and other businesses around Broadway. And Hamilton is obviously not the only successfully. All of them attract people from different states and countries. “All told, there are 87,000 jobs directly related to the theater industry, Broadway League officials said. And that doesn’t even include all the ancillary work created by the theater district constant hum — the shops, restaurants, and businesses that cater to Broadway employees and theatergoers (Ginger Adam Otis 2017) .” Overall, the theatre has had a very positive impact on society.

Throughout history, it has brought nothing other than another gateway to express, to create, to relate to. Through comedies, tragedies, musicals, and improvisations, theatre performances have captivated millions of average lives. It has offered rich and poor a midground to come together to enjoy a good leisure time. Theatre anywhere brings people of different backgrounds together. In any performance anywhere from a hundred to a thousand or more people gather at a time in one location for several hours, and share together. They are able to witness and contemplate to a beautiful event. It could be funny sometimes or be moving. Many times it is even thought-provoking and makes one reevaluate an idea or a belief. Theatre can be for everyone too, young or old you can take part in it. Nowadays when most of our communication happens through a text and behind a screen, it is a very special and genuine way to still interact with others. It is very inspiring for many artist and musicians. The impact of theatre on society is broad and immense and it couldn’t be narrowed to just a list of ways. As technology advances, the theatre will only grow stronger and become more innovative. It will provide the audience an even more entertaining experience. It will always play a mimicking role in society and depict the characteristics of generations to come. 

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