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Define Theater

Updated on December 26, 2012

What is Theater?

When you hear the word “theater”, you may think of Shakespear or Neil Simon. You probably think of a large auditorium with a proscenium stage and lots of well-dressed people occupying seats. While that can be one example of theater, theater can be so much more. Theater is not just for the well-to-do types who can afford to pay upwards of $50 for a ticket. Theater is for everyone. I once had a teacher who told our class that you may not like every type of music out there but if you are willing to give it a chance you will find something that you like. I maintain that philosophy is true of many things—theater included.

So Define Theater Then. . .

If you think of a play when you hear the word theater, you are not alone. A play is a story. It is written specifically to be told through the medium of theater, but it is still a story.

Theater is a medium much like painting or television. It is a conduit for telling stories or making statements or simply entertaining people. To understand what it really is and what it can be you must first break it down into its most basic elements. At its most basic level, theater is defined as an actor, an audience and a space. I would broaden that definition a little further and say that at its most basic level theater is a performer, an audience and a space. That being said, I repeat: theater is for everyone.

Let's take a look at a few examples.

The following is performance poet Taylor Mali. He is an amazingly talented guy. But is this theater?

Performance Poetry

Well, let’s take a look: A performer? Check.

An audience? While we can’t see them on this video, they are there.

A space? Duh.

Summation: Is this theater?


How about this? I love this. I love that it was so well orchestrated and incorporated so many participants. I love the apparent randomness. I love the energy and enthusiasm. Is it theater?

Flash Mob

What do you think?

Is this theater?

See results

. . . Well class?

Okay. How about this?

In my opinion it meets the criteria.

So, don’t let the word “theater” throw you off. Don’t let anyone make you feel inferior because you aren’t “cultured” or don’t appreciate “art.” Theater is for everyone. You may just have to find the type of theater that speaks to you.

And then, of course, there is this. . .


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    • BrightMeadow profile image

      BrightMeadow 4 years ago from a room of one's own

      Very true. I got to see a seasons worth of professional shows by simply volunteering to usher.

    • ElizabethDelaney profile image

      Elizabeth Delaney 4 years ago from Ohio

      Sometimes if you contact a theater organization about volunteering you can barter to get into see a production for free. Depends on the group and how badly they need people that they can't afford to pay. Also, there are some community theater groups that put on some very quality productions but don't charge the price of "professional" theater.