Drama is a living art. It is written to be performed live before a group of people who form an audience and together experience a play. Cave paintings depicting men disguised as animals reveal that since ancient times, impersonation and imitation have served humans in their efforts to express themselves and to communicate. The drama of western civilization has its roots in the ancient Greeks’ religious rituals and observances.
Until the Renaissance, when Shakespeare wrote, drama was closely tied to religious beliefs and practice. Drama not only depicts human communication, it is human communication. In theater, unlike television or film, there is a two-way communication that occurs between the actors and their audience. The audience hears and sees the actors, and the actors hear and see the audience. We are used to thinking about the actors’ roles in a play, but may find it strange to imagine ourselves, the audience, playing an important role in this living art. Because the art lives, each production is guaranteed to be different, depending in part upon an audience’s response. Live drama is the sharing of human experience, intensely and immediately, in the theater, which momentarily becomes our universe.
A live theater production depends upon its audience. The best performances depend upon the best actors—and the best audiences. When the actors sense a responsive, interested audience, their work is at its best—full of animation and energy. When the actors sense disinterest, they too are distracted and the play they create is less interesting. One actor described the experience of live performance as a story told by the actors and audience together. In this sense, you are also a storyteller in the experience of live theater. We hope you’ll enjoy your role—and will help us to give you a dramatic experience that you’ll always remember.
[Theatrical performance] is essentially a sociable, communal affair. This is important. To resist this is, I think, to ruin one of the very important parts of the theatrical experience. Let the play and let the fact that temporarily you are not your private self, but a member of a closely fused group, make it easy for the performance to ’take you out of yourself.’ This, I suggest, is the object of going to a play… to be taken out of yourself, out of your ordinary life, away from the ordinary world of everyday.
—TYRONE GUTHRIE, 1962