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Why you should support live theatre

Live theatre is the bees knees and you should love it as much as I do, in my opinon.

Scene from Next to Normal

New York Times

Scene from Next to Normal

Dylan Cohen, Staff Reporter

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Hamilton, the bio-musical about the founding fathers, has become a global phenomenon this past year. With its complicated lyricism and well crafted music, how could it not be an astonishing 16-time Tony nominee? However, the greatest aspect of the musical is often overlooked: it’s attracting a new audience and generation to the world of live theatre.

“But, what’s the point of live theatre?” the apathetic teen asks, “Why not just watch an episode of Stranger Things?”

“I will go home and binge watch something on Netflix as quick as anyone else,” admitted Netflix-addict Mr. Kevin Phelan, “That being said, theatre touches an audience–you can change people’s minds using theater” says Phelan.

Live theatre gives you the opportunity to witness everything you love about Netflix, books, and movies, before your very eyes.

Wicked is a really good example,” VHHS Technical Director Phelan said, “it has one of the most theatrical moments ever, “Defying Gravity”. [It] is just so tremendously amazing. It’s a moment unlike any other that can’t be duplicated on film.”

The essence of live theatre is to transport you from your seat into a new world that discusses relevant issues that resonates with you, personally.

English and Theatre teacher Ms. Stephanie Freichels has a similar stance. “If you have a show that can really relate to somebody, that’s where they get that spark.”

Live theatre has a way of drawing an audience member out of apathy. Watching performers confront a challenge that one relates to not only makes the spectator recognize what he is personally dealing with, but allows him to witness how the actor’s reactions can play out.

For instance, how did Alexander Hamilton react to a poor upbringing, the absence of a father, and the early death of his mother? He works, and keeps working until he becomes one of our nation’s founding fathers. Our Social Studies department is wonderful, but I have a feeling the determination in Miguel Cervantes’s eyes in “My Shot” will resonate more with students than a page out of the textbook or a documentary.

This absorption that theatre has gives the opportunity to slip away from the daily stresses we face; as overwhelmed high school students, this absorption is crucial.

“All of the stress I see in our kids today: grades, AP scores, ACT. [Live theatre] gives you an outlet to emote and feel and be.” Freichels emphasizes, “There is nothing else that allows you to experience something that way. We need to keep tapping into that because it’s a release and it’s important for our health. You’re really tapping into what is is to be human.”

Live theatre is also incredibly progressive in both casting and plot. “If you look at the Oscars this year, no black people were nominated,” Phelan said, “but if you look at the Tonys this year, there’s Hamilton, Shuffle Along, and The Color Purple.”

Even host of the Tonys, James Corden joked, “Think of tonight as the Oscars, but with diversity.”

Vox.com also writes how, “All of the awards in the acting categories for musicals went to people of color.”

The idea of representation and the power of seeing someone you connect to is not only on the physical level, but the emotional journey modern shows explore has been on an incline in recent years.

“It’s not for old people!” maternity substitute Ms. Paul jokes, “Some people think of theatre as, “Oh, these 70-year olds are getting all dressed up to watch Anything Goes! where there’s a 7-minute dance sequence just because!” Those shows are great, but that’s a very WWII style of thinking where you go to the theater to be entertained and forget your problems.”

She goes on to say that, “The millennial generation wants to be informed, challenged, and we want to talk about some really intense stuff.”

It’s true! As our generation begins to deal with heavy subject matters, we crave an outlet for the pent up feelings we have. Shows like Fun Home handles family issues and coming to terms with your sexuality, Next to Normal opens the discussion of Bipolar disorder and the loss of a loved one, and those are examples of musicals alone.

Heavy topics like that not up your alley? No problem! There are plenty of shows out there that can make you laugh. Live theatre isn’t all musicals either. There’s plays, sketch comedy shows, dance, and plenty more. Live theatre is constantly evolving. There’s something for everyone.

Freichels agrees, “One of the great things about theatre is that it’s always reinventing itself and people are always coming up with new ideas, sometimes it helps you examine problems of the world. If you examine some of the controversial issues of our day it makes you think. It’s a way to connect.”

Let’s say you’re intrigued at the idea of live theater. Obviously, going to Broadway and catching every show is unrealistic. Where does that leave you? Luckily, the northern suburbs of Chicago has plenty of options!

Local opportunities to see live theatre

Local opportunities to see live theatre

High school theatre, especially, is a great opportunity to stick your toes into the world of live theatre. Every single person involved–cast, crew, and directors–spends hours working towards a final product that you have the opportunity to experience. Even if you don’t consider yourself an avid theatre-junkie, it never hurts to support your peers while having an enjoyable night at the theater.

“We try to pick shows that people will be excited by, and we try, as directors, to do whatever we can to keep that show entertaining.” Phelan said, “If you’re doing theatre and it’s not entertaining for your audience, what’s the point?”

So, instead of spending your night in front of a laptop, get out and experience the world of live theatre. You’ll laugh out loud, you’ll sob disgustingly, and you might walk out with a new perspective on things.

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The student newspaper of Vernon Hills High School
Why you should support live theatre