Theater As A Means Of Education

Dr. Michael LaitmanQuestion: Why does a person find empathy with actors on stage and identify with particular characters?

Answer: Initially a play is directed towards a specific audience and a particular time. Today we aren’t watching a performance that was staged in ancient Greece. There were isolated classical productions that remained on the stage for hundreds of years.

A play must arouse a sensation of empathy in a person. This is not soccer, where we are be a fan of only one team. A theater performance must hold us in our entirety. From the start there are positive and negative characters in a play, and there are viewers who identify more with male actors and there are those who identify more with women. But ultimately, the entire play must arouse viewer sympathy for a particular character and hatred for his antagonist.

The viewer identifies with the protagonist, for that is how he assesses the validity of what happens in a play, the degree of its success. It is as if he is living in that time, participating in everything that is happening, and suffering along with the protagonist.

The main thing about the theater is its educational value. The play must be written and staged to educate the viewer, giving him good examples, attracting him towards a worthy goal, showing him his own appearance, and representing the character of a true hero. The viewer learns from the characters in a play, just as a son learns from his father. In this case, the theater is used for an educational purpose.

If the play is designed for entertainment and pleasure, it doesn’t give anything. Specifically in classical plays like those of Chekhov and Shakespeare, I don’t see any high educational potential. For some time they have become a presentation for the central protagonist who is trying to become famous thanks to his uniqueness.

An educational play must be written in particular to elevate a person to a higher level. It is designed to grant the viewer a strong, deep, obliging and correct psychological lesson. When he leaves the theater, the person shouldn’t require any explanation. If an explanation is required, this says that the play didn’t fulfill its function.

Suppose that the viewer doesn’t even understand everything that is happening on the stage. This is not important. The main thing is that the viewer will be impressed and get excited by the example and that he will receive an educational lesson: a proper sense of good and evil must be presented, positive qualities that should be emulated, and negative ones that one should distance himself from.

The power of the theater is in the influence of the environment on a person. Even within two hours, it is possible to influence all the senses of the audience from the stage. And even more so, the viewers are impressed by each other.

It is said that theater begins even before the viewer enters the hall and sits down. The person is influenced by the theatrical environment, its uniqueness and the music that is heard before the performance. Not long ago I visited the famous La Scala opera house in Milan and noticed that the building was very simple. In other words, the main focus of this world-famous theater was the performance itself.

But I have seen other theaters in which the actors in theatrical costumes meet the audience in the entrance hall and invite them to enter the world of the performance. The goal of this reception is to prepare the person and impress him so that he will already be involved with the play from the first moment.

It is not for nothing that the musical symphony begins the introduction, the opening, since this awakens emotion in a person. After all, the final goal of the playwright and the director is to influence people and awaken the kind of experiences that they desire for him, so that an audience will laugh and cry, clap their hands and freeze in absolute silence in the right places.

The audience comes to the theater specifically to experience all of this, including making an unofficial covenant with the director. If we were to use the entire system correctly, we could influence a person in a good way.
From the program “A New Life” 5/22/14

Related Material:
A Theatrical Marvel
All The World Is A Stage
Behind The Scenes At A Shadow Theater

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