The act of putting on a stage production is unlike anything I have ever experienced in my life. One of the first things I took away from being in a production was that it is almost entirely in flux from the day the script is chosen (sometimes even before it is chosen!) to the closing night of the show. As an actor, it was crucial to learn that acting is not a stand-alone form of art. My success in a scene rested not on me, but on my scene partners and our constant give-and-take relationship as actors. Still even more profound was my discovery that the success of the production depended on the audience because without them we beg the question, “Why are we even putting on this show?” I might’ve learned about that after the director told us many times during the rehearsal process, “You need an audience,” but thinking back to shows I’ve acted in, like “The Laramie Project” and “Zoot Suit,” I’ve learned that the audience needed us.

There are two things I am sure of that are relative to the theatre: it is a very old form of art and it exists for the audience.

Now, let us consider theatre from here on as a place that does not intend on solely producing commercially successful plays and musicals, i.e. a theatre that is not “Broadway-esque.” If we now agree of the theatre in that sense, let us consider the audience as being members of the community as they are more than likely to live within a drivable distance from the theatre. What compels the community to go back to the theatre and have their hearts torn to shreds or their jaws and cheeks sore from successive laughter and smiling?

David Mamet says it best in his book “3 Uses of the Knife”: “Theatre is a communal art… When you come into the theatre, you have to be willing to say, ‘We’re all here to undergo a communion, to find out what the hell is going on in this world.’”

It is a human desire to want all the answers to life’s questions and the crux is we don’t know them. We don’t know how to put them into words. At best, we find some sort of understanding when we see the problems spelled out, front and center, on the stage.

When SACTA produced “The Laramie Project” and toured the local high schools, we spelled out the event of a teenager who was beat to death because he was gay. We brought questions and answers to students who struggled with their own sexuality, and information to those who might have had hate instilled in them. Through that production we proposed a treaty of peace and love for all humankind. Needless to say, the Q & A sessions held after the shows were informative and emotional for the students and the cast. Similarly, “Zoot Suit” was a history lesson for our community. I was astonished to learn that I was not the only person who knew nothing about the Zoot Suit Riots of the 1940’s, while an older generation was reminded of the searing, racial profiling event that was seemingly overshadowed and bookended by other important events in our nation’s history. “The Laramie Project” and “Zoot Suit” are only two examples of SACTA productions that were made to evoke conversations within the community. They certainly have had an impact on me.

Theatre has lasted through the ages and will continue to do so simply because it helps us gain an inch towards understanding our own issues. I believe if human civilization were to blast its way back to the stone age, theatre will survive in some form and we will still be compelled to tell our stories by acting them out. I’ve laid out some of my own thoughts as to why we would feel the need to do this.

Do you think theatre is an important part in understanding human nature? If so, how can theatre better reflect and inform its community? Perhaps there’s a story you know about that has been overlooked yet needs to be told? 

Let me hear your story,

Danny Gonzalez

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