Why should students care about theatre?

Est. Reading Time: 4 minutes

It is possible to find a safe, inclusive, empathetic and accessible community through the magic of live theatre

Unless you went to an arts high school, theatre kids were likely the ones getting made fun of. It was never the sporty or popular ones, but the ones who spent their time pretending, dressing up, singing and dancing on a stage who were viewed as cringeworthy by most. But theatre is something that everyone should care about and it is an important activity that can improve the state of our world. 

Today, finding a true sense of community is challenging. The rise of technology has changed and limited the way we interact, alongside the global pandemic affecting in-person social interaction for three years. But for human beings, specifically for young people and young students, finding a place in a community is crucial. Not only does community give you a sense of purpose, it also gives you a feeling of friendship and love. An easy and accessible way to find a sense of community is through participating in live theatre. Working with a group of people towards a common goal and to put on a show is a connecting experience unlike any other.  

McMaster University theatre group, Mac One Act, is a uniquely accessible organization. All of their shows are original 20-30 minutes performances featuring one act as opposed to two with an intermission. Co-president of Mac One Act, Ashlyn Chou, elaborated on why the organization is accessible for both new members and experienced ones.

“For beginners especially, but also for veteran theatre kids who need something fun to balance with their other commitments . . . it's always an interesting blend — we tend to have a lot of first-time and veteran actors alike, but several of our writers, stagehands and technicians this year were also completely new to their roles" said Chou.

Theatre tends to be a very accessible and inclusive activity for many reasons. A lot of theatre is community based. Although you usually will not get paid like in professional theatre, it is typically free to participate in. Along with being financially accessible, theatre is a very inclusive space. Theatre has been rooted in queer culture since it originated, allowing queer people and other marginalized communities to find a safe space on stage. If you look for it, you'll find that there is likely a community theatre much closer to you then you probably ever realized.

Chou spoke of how there is great diversity within Mac One Act. Although everybody is different, there is also common thread between everyone.

“There's a sense of solidarity that we experience as a team, especially in theatre when a million things can go wrong at a moment's notice. It's the feeling of, "Shoot, that wasn't supposed to happen, but it's okay because we're in this together. Now how can I help in the next 20 seconds before the curtain comes up?"” said Chou.

There's a sense of solidarity that we experience as a team, especially in theatre when a million things can go wrong at a moment's notice.

Ashlyn Chou, co-president of Mac One Act

Theatre is so valuable because unlike a lot of other activities such as sports, theatre takes out any competitive nature. There is no winning goal; everyone is equally important to the show. Chou also explained this idea.

“Like any form of art, I think it's incredibly valuable to learn these new skillsets and challenge ourselves to think creatively. But with theatre especially, so much of the enrichment comes from being part of a team," said Chou.

With university being such a high stress time of life, having an opportunity to reconnect with your inner child and to be able to freely express yourself in a fun and safe space is a very beautiful thing. There aren’t many other spaces where acting like a child again is socially acceptable, yet in theatre you can do it without feeling judged.

Not only is it rewarding to participate in theatre as a performer, or a backstage hand, it is also equally rewarding to simply go and witness a live show.

In 2021, a study was conducted in Portland, OR and New York, NY, in which two groups of people were interviewed. One group was interviewed before watching a show and the other was interviewed after watching the show. It was found that the second group that saw the show was more empathetic towards individuals and groups that were portrayed onstage.

I would argue that today the world could benefit from a great deal more empathy. If a simple act such as consuming a live theatre performance can make people more empathetic, then we should all partake in theatre, either as active contributors or as consumers. Taking part in creating a show, or simply encouraging others to consume more theatre while consuming more ourselves, are both equally important. 

If you talk to someone who is apart of the theatre community, they will likely speak highly of the benefits theatre can provide for you. Whether it be joining a theatre organization directly on campus like Mac One Act, participating in community based theatre, or simply seeking out live theatre to enjoy, theatre is something that can only make the world a better place and is something worth caring about.

At McMaster, there are many theatre and theatre adjacent groups along with Mac One Act, such as McMaster Musical Theatre, McMaster Music Society, McMaster Thespian Company and McMaster Artsci Musical. If you’re interested in performing, or simply watching more theatre, then these are all great student groups that you should get involved with. 


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