When you hear the word theater, do you think of plays or musicals or …?  What is theater, anyway?
When you hear the word theater, do you think of plays or musicals or …? What is theater, anyway?

2014 MayJune elizabeth3credit Andrew RappeI talk to many people who say, “I’m not a theater person”.  How much theater does a person need to see to come to this conclusion?  Recently I had this conversation with a close friend.  He said it’s just not something he sees himself getting into, even as a spectator.  He’d seen two plays in his life.  I then asked him how many songs he had listened to or films he had watched.  The answer was thousands.  He liked some and hated some, but he didn’t jump to the conclusion that he just isn’t into music or movies.  Yet we easily do this with theater.  I think there is very little education as to what is considered theater.  What types of theater are out there besides the standard naturalistic play or musical?  Here are some words that describe of define the type of theater that Compass makes:

2014 MayJune elizabeth1credit Andrew RappeEXPERIMENTAL THEATER:  Process oriented, rather than results driven.  This type of theater may or may not use a published script.  It might start with an image or the people in the room or a dance or a piece of music and build from there.    Like an experiment, no one knows much about what the end product will look like.  Experimental theater takes big risks and relies heavily on the imagination.  It treads into the unknown.

APPLIED THEATER:  Theater in a specific social context.  It takes theater outside of its normal home with comfortable seats and convenient curtains and into communities or prisons or anywhere that theater may benefit a people group by engaging with them.  It may be issue oriented.  Performances are likely to be held in non-conventional spaces.

THEATRICAL EVENTS:  A piece of theater that breaks out of the standard play or musical.  It may incorporate music, dance, poetry, visual art, the audience, food, or anything that creates a theatrical atmosphere within a rehearsed structure.  It changes the atmosphere.  Typically the audience feels a part of the production, rather than merely onlookers.

2014 MayJune elizabeth2credit Andrew RappeORIGINAL WORK:  Theater that is created by the people in the room which could not be replicated by others without changing the original makeup.  It may be autobiographical or dependent on the particular skills of the performers creating the work.

Compass is committed to work that explores the spiritual, restores dignity and rejoices in the wonder of being human.  Look for these types of theater in your area.  Join our mailing list:  compasscollective@gmail.com. Let us know what type of theater you have seen that has affected you, and we will keep you updated on our latest performances!

Photos courtesy of Andrew Rappe

Elizabeth Malone is artistic director of Compass | performance collective, a theater company associated with commonGood. With theatrical experience in NYC and a passion for communal purpose from her work in Palestine, she is creating artistic, risk-taking theater in Riverside.

Posted by Debbie Wright