The importance of live theatre

The importance of live theatre

Right before spring break, the sophomore class got on the tube for an hour and headed to Hackney to see Shakespeare’s Hamlet performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) led by Paapa Essiedu, the first black lead in an RSC production of a classic Shakespeare play. Many of my classmates entered with low expectations. Although the seats were small and uncomfortable, I was entranced. Three hours of world class actors performing one of the most intricate and complex plays in history was one of the most impactful experiences of my life.

Students must realize what a privilege it is to be able to see live theater for a class. In the U.S. it would be basically impossible to see Shakespeare performed on a professional level live. Living in London provides opportunities and this is one of them.

If you struggle with the words being said in the sometimes confusing dialect of Shakespeare, seeing the actors physically represent it can clear up some of the confusion. Seeing a production on stage may clear up questions about a character and make it easier for students, especially ones that may not speak English as their first language or not as comfortable with the writing style. This is an asset especially because skill level and experience varies due to the lack of an advanced English track it can provide a more equal playing field. Live theater makes you think, and Shakespeare is supposed to make you question parts of yourself. Seeing Shakespeare live will make you think even more. The actions and choices made by the director made me think more about the play. During Intermission I talked to my former English Teacher, Alissa Mears, with genuine excitement to see the second half. I felt passionate for this subject unlike anything I’ve felt for a text before because it was brought to life on stage.

Hamlet played by Paapa Essiedu.

On the train home, I talked to my friends for what seemed like hours on end about how much I loved the production. I was asking questions about the show and the text in a way I had not before seeing it performed. How did the set affect the characters? Was Hamlet actually in love with Ophelia? I went home and researched the intricacies of the relationship of Hamlet and Horatio. I watched various different film versions and the Andrew Scott West End Recording. I was excited to go to English class for the first time in a year because of the production.

When we eventually returned to class a week later, I could not stop myself from continually praising the production and actors. In Harkness discussions, I find myself referring to the performance just as often as the text. The choices that were made were based on interpretations of the text that were different to the ones my English teacher talked about in class. Last year, I was fortunate enough to assist with the Advanced Acting production of Macbeth after reading the text for class a month before. Based on his previous experience with Shakespeare productions, Performing Arts Department Aide Warren Rusher was invaluable in that production, giving insights into how to perform Shakespeare as well as providing alternate readings of scenes that I would have never thought of.

The alternative readings that these performances gave me provided me with more insight. I referred to them in class and gave our harkness discussions more depth with these thoughts in our minds. Harkness became more alive because the live performance gave us additional information to feed our discussions. The movies that we watch in class also provide insight, but are filtered by a camera lens. A movie cannot compare to having an actor look into the audience and feel like they truly connect with you. The live theater experience enriches the class experience and no student should take that for granted. Being able to refer to a shared experience with your classmates provides the basis for greater understanding. The insight provides for an understanding that is not presented. Instead of grumbling about seeing the next performance, we should be excited that we get to experience written masterpieces performed live.


Written by Staff Writer Sara Short 

Photo from The Telegraph 

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