Theatre and the Internal Battle

Recently I have attended live theatre and loved it. Straight plays especially I am seeing these days contain challenging subject matter that beckons the audience to ask difficult questions. I love it when the art of live theatre serves a purpose in enriching people’s lives. However, recently I have discovered the changes in my taste for entertainment.

As many who know me are aware, I am passionate about emotional and mental health, especially my own. I have spent hours analyzing my emotions, habits, lifestyle, and childhood to determine why I think and feel certain ways, and how to improve those parts of my life that are unhealthy.

How does this affect my tastes for live theatre? I am realizing that the reason many shows are challenging is because the characters are not healthy. It is easy to see the unhealthy decisions of someone on a stage, but it is more difficult to identify those same issues in real life, which is what makes theatre so beautiful. An awareness or a call to attention of a character’s flaws creates a deeper awareness of our own flaws or the flaws of the world. This awareness in turn elicits a response from us, be it a call to action, or at least developing a unique perspective of an area in which one was previously oblivious.

The problem I have is that often I see elements of myself on stage played out in ways that do not allow for a resolution. At the conclusion of a given play, the audience is left to create their own resolution, their own determination to not turn out the way the characters might have. This can be a positive thing, especially if it motivates the audience to live healthier lives. Where I am in my own life, however, seeing dangerous life decisions played out onstage brings me pain because I am trying as hard as I can to avoid a similar fate.

In the midst of my daily anxieties, stressors, and irritants, during which I like to imagine the worst case scenario, I have thought that perhaps one day I will create short dramas to put on a stage to get them out of my head and out of my way in life. I think many people before me have already done that, as we hear stories of artists who lived tortured lives and wrote from dark places. It makes for great drama, because no one wants to watch a story in which everyone is perfectly happy the entire time. My hope is that the events I see onstage will not become a reality in my own life.

And so while I may need to take a break from live dramas to work on my own life, I hope one day I will learn to maintain a certain disconnect from people I watch in stories so as to enjoy them more.

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