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Updated on September 8, 2014

Thesis: By engaging the audience's imagination, the theatre, despite its physical limitations, can show fantasy more effectively than the cinema."


Cinema and theatre are two mediums of art, which possesses similar elements such as theatrics and acting. There are also variations between the two art forms. Both theater and film plays require performers who are known as actors. These actors perform scenes by following written scripts. The difference between the two is particularly on how they present their performance to their audiences. A filmed performance is edited and recorded before being shown to the screen audience. A theatre performance, on the other hand, is shown live, that is on a one to one basis to viewers. Film is a more modern form of art, with its origin in France and U.S. On the other hand, theatre is quite old with its origin in Greece.

There are variations concerning technical requirements of theatre and movie productions. It is these requirements, which determines the way in which performers should act. A movie employs a camera in recording the performance of an actor. Movie play necessitates acting skills that favor the right angles, right movements, and the viewer’s connection that is based on how the actor will appear when projected on the screen. In this medium, subtle movements can be highly effective. In a theatre, the actor has to connect with the audience through voice projection and movements on stage. Subtle movements may not be seen for instance by observes in distant seats. An actor in theatre has to exaggerate his movements depending on the capacity and size of the theatre while communicating his character of emotions and actions. This paper presents a discussion how theatre, despite its physical limitations, can show fantasy more efficiently than the cinema.


Challenges of Theatre

Serious theatre has been an endangered form of art. In this time of globalization and technological innovations, it has been challenging to bring back the prestige it once had.

Since the introduction of the film industry, the motion picture has been vastly more popular in comparison to the theatre in respect to attendance. The cinema has been enhanced in technical perspectives, hence increasing the value of entertainment at the expense of learning. This is particularly imminent in today’s cinema as more films depict technical innovations instead of promoting a message to a specific audience. According to the observation of (Kirby, 2011), the entertainment generated through film is acceptable and an effective way of relieving viewer’s discontentment and stressful situations in life. The entertainment that is extended by film to its audiences serves as an activity that instigates enchantment to people’s viewing experiences, although temporarily (Kirby, 2011).

Corporate and technological revolutions have already changed the manner in which people communicate, live, interact, and make art and articulate ethics and values. Leaving these changes aside, there are also factors related to time, money, people’s lifestyles, and frequency of exposure among others, which have affected theatre attendance. Many people in today’s perspective would rather visit bars than take an interest in theatre performances as a consequence of modernity. It has been noted that theatre attendants are becoming lesser and lesser every year for reasons related to transportation, accessibility, price resistance, technology advancement alongside the ones mentioned above (Bogart, 2001).

Differences of Theatre and Cinema Acting

Although there are some elements that may be similar in both theatre and cinema, a number of differences can also be noted. Among them are sound requirements, which are different in theater and movies. In a film, the voice may be recorded live either on a set or later in the studio. Whatever way, the dialogue, is mostly part of the sound mix that may include sound effects, music, background effects and other elements required for the play. In a theatre, the actors speak live and music is either performed live or pre-recorded or a mix of both. The use of a microphone also differs in theatre and film. Unlike in films, it may be acceptable when viewers see the microphone by actors in the theatre. A stage actor in the theatre has to act loudly, and enunciate the words in a clear manner even if it means doing so in actual life situation in order to be heard by the viewers. On the other hand, actors in film and movies speak in a lifelike tone (University of Wisconsin, 2014).

Another difference is that concerned on lighting wherein theatre, lighting is sharp, more dynamic and with high contrast. There is also spotlight, which focuses on particular actors during a specific performance. In films, many variables determine the type of lighting to be displayed. These include the size of the shots, scene continuity from one shot to the other, and the general mood of the film. For example, films that have a warm feeling may depict sepia tones while films that are intended to generate a feeling of coldness use bluer tones with longer and darker shadows. The composition of the shorts and treatment of the lighting can be manipulated at the time of editing as well as other postproduction work. The actors have to act in front of the green or blue screens, rehearsals and pretending actions do take place in front of the screens. The actions are added during postproduction. Preparations for a theatre play require many rehearsals, and memorizing all the lines. During real performance, there is no space for mistakes since all the action is lives. Although this can be the same for movies, the real shot may be repeated many times until the director is satisfied. In case an actor forgets his or her line, there is always space for correction (The University of Wisconsin, 2014).

Impact of Life Theatre on the Audience

In terms of acting, theatre has an interactive audience when compared to cinema. The effect of life theatre in relation to social- political ritualistic experience is the intensification of a stand concerning particular believes as related with the main idea or topic of representation. Since theatre has elements of reality, individuals who see real performances have a more tendency of believing, arguing, realizing and reacting on social, political and realistic aspects of the performance. If viewers were convinced, they will be more or less vigilant in respect to expressing their views on issues addressed on theatre stage. The aspect of interactivity of the viewers audience in life theatre establishes a total difference with cinema especially with regard to the effects.

Acting in cinema is compared with “received acting” whereby, character depictions are related to the costumes that are worn by actors or the context. The fact that the audiences are involved directly in occurring or real situations present a sheer demonstration on the extent of the effect. Theatre represents a more believable element of view whereby, ideas are created, arguments are presented, and reactions are collected from the direct viewers of the action, with disregard to artful or artistic techniques of production. In addition, theatre does not only exist for the sake of art. Rather, it is practically used as a personification of truth as well as a social change agent (Kirby, 2011).

In drawing the theatre as one of the art form, individuals ought to act in an empathetic spirit. The audience in theatre is anticipated to be more sensible emotionally alongside logical reasoning. This means that education and learning are a core aspect among its different impacts. The experience of attending life theatre is interactive with respect to acting since the performers act right in front of the audience. The different reactions may or may not have an impact on the overall performance. In a theater, settings are manmade since one is closed in an arena where curtains are raised down and up, lights turned off and on and real life is in place. Theatre has a high evident drama, which is in explaining social actions, and the parallel interpretations. The association between the audience and director is intertwined on the purpose of the script. In a professional theatre, the director has to listen to the public and make adjustments on spots that appear problematic. A general rule in theatre assessment or with respect to the measurement of the director’s efficiency or the general quality of the performance is dependent on the feedback from the audience and the conclusion of the assessment of the general production. This also means that a theatre member or actor has to follow general theory of audience, which is essentially to make them pleased (Berger and Luere, 1998).

Why Theatre is More Effective In Comparison to Cinema

Theatre and cinema do differ in different ways with respect to practical life perspectives as well as applications. It can be rightly pointed out that cinema as already been said is more technologically driven in comparison to theatre. The realism element in cinema is somewhat mixed up with the wonders that technology has brought along. In the light of the theater, there is a clear evidence that reality and fantasy can be more realistically perceivable in stage rather than on screen. Giving an example, acting on theatre and cinema are far different. Baron (2007) articulates that setting the essential set of acting requires setting aside the well established view that film acting carries no connotations especially when produced by the assemblage of expressions, and gestures in themselves. In theatre drama, actions take messages and connotations especially on performances that are social political in nature. Comparing screen actors to stage actors, screen actors endeavor to represent the authenticity of human emotions. This is an effort to convince the audience in a strong way especially on the messages that are passed across.

However, both theatrical and cinematic acting involves animation when it comes to the variety of performances. The significant difference between the latter and the former is the capability of the performer to convince audience members that the emotion or action is happening right in front of them, and that it is the “normal” and usual reaction that is expected to be shown. Just in practical life, cinema overstates reality and life theatre is an exact reality. Baron is clear on this view when he says that because of its underlying conception, the cinema employs the voices and bodies of actors as bearers of authentic physiological signs. The importance of such signs develops through their integration into the general film design. Just like the characters, details in actor’s performance, in the world and context, which does not include appropriately modulated voices, or the measured musical phrases, instead, these only accommodate the off-balance, fleeting embraces, and distorted voices that crack with emotion.

Theater has been known to create an environment, which is controlled by talented actors. Talented actors have to know the mood of the audience and increase or decrease their voices accordingly in order to get their attention. The actors can sense the appeal of the silence in the theatre, and get to understand what people are keenly paying attention to. This case may not be related to film, as the screen does not provide a live opportunity to actors. In many occasions, movies have to include junks in performance in order to make the performance more appealing to the audience, with unnecessary gimmicks and special effects. This section is not possible in life theatre since the actors are just in front of the audience, acknowledging the actor in every action and move. Unlike film, theatre attendants are fed with raw feed of expressions and emotions. In addition, it offers originality and endeavour to lure the public by any possible means.

It is common knowledge that theatre has regularly delivered outstanding actors to the film industry. Many artists who have moved from life theatre to the film industry have succeeded in establishing themselves in the movie industry. Real examples from this notion may be derived from popular people such as Freeman Morgan, Craig Daniel, Close Glenn, Andrews Julie, but just to name a few. These individuals have effectively established themselves as good performers both on the screen and on the stage. In essence, theatre intensely connects to the audience, with every performance being unique and hard to replicate, unlike movies. The major difference between the screen and on stage acting is the manner in which it influences both the audience and artists (Berger and Luere, 1998).


There is no doubt that serious life theatre as a form of art has been highly endangered in the present day view. In this time of globalization and technological developments, it has become a challenge to bring back the prestige that life theatre once had. In recovering the position of the life theatre, government authorities and stakeholders should also take a hand in its reformation. A clear agenda should be found in supporting and promoting the theatre paradigms as a form of art for the purpose of education, art and entertainment. Academic institutions, through humanities and art subjects ought to integrate the significance, characteristics and benefits of theatre over modern cinema. The inclusion of theatrical conventions in cinema may also be a potential solution. However, it ought to be considered that such media are artistically, and culturally diverse. Each of them has a different attribute, which the other may not have. Practically and personally and in response to the necessity of revitalizing the vigor of life theatre, I will recommend the staging of theatrical representations on a regular basis. These may serve as an aid in reviving the once glorious and prestigious industry of life theater.


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