You’re sitting at home on Friday afternoon and trying to decide how to spend your weekend with the little money you have in your wallet, and you can’t think of anything interesting. Have you thought about getting out to see some live theater? It’s probably something you don’t normally do, but did you know that there are personal benefits in doing so?
While you would prefer to spend the weekend skiing in Mammoth, or sunning in Palm Springs with friends, the funds just are there. You most likely revert to your default plan, which is hitting a movie with a friend. Or possibly you stay in, make popcorn, and watch movies-on-demand with your iPad, computer, projected onto your huge flat screen. As nice as those options might be, you are looking to do something new. Think about hitting up local theater companies offering live performances that challenge, inspire, and entertain you, for about the same amount of money!
We forget that our smartphones, computers, television, and other various technological devices load our senses throughout the day and due to our increased use of technology, we are less exposed to opportunities of personal engagement in real time with real people. Live theater gives us a chance to go “off the grid” for a couple of hours, and experience human connection in real time.
There is a growing interest for researchers to study healthy benefits of “non-digital” choices, including our entertainment selections. In a study done by University of Arkansas with two separate groups viewing the same material, one via movie on screen, and the other in a live theater setting, there turned out to be a significant increase in literary knowledge, tolerance, and empathy of those that attended the live theater option.
So how does going to live theater specifically impact you as a student? Here at Antioch students are urged to aspire towards a short list of solid core purposes, which are enhanced and fostered by the choices we make. In choosing live theater, the growth potential towards our core purposes increases- most especially “Praxis for Social Justice” and “Critical and Creative Thinking”.
Ok you say, so how does this work? Viewing live theater commands a person’s full attention for the duration of a performance. It also connects with emotions and the capacity for empathy in a way that no other entertainment medium does. When you leave the theater, you walk away not only with a unique and lasting memory, but with a sense of appreciation for the shared human experience, which translates to a deeper, richer understanding of ourselves and of the Antioch Core Purposes.
In Santa Barbara we are very fortunate. There are several venues that offer live theater; something for everyone- no matter ones likes and dislikes. There are venues composing works to inspire and educate the audience. There are newer-budding groups, specifically creating work to resonate with a college age audience, and which is performed in intimate black box spaces around the Santa Barbara Funk Zone. Some host “readings” where actors and audiences can engage in “talk backs”. Most theater companies have a mission and goal; many of which deal with issues of social justice. Other theaters are producing new written works and exposing audiences to new playwrights- those who offer artistic insights into common themes of concern today.
Here are a few theater companies doing some interesting things. They also offer nice student discounts- making attendance more affordable.
OUT OF THE BOX THEATER
This group strives to make use of local talent, bringing together top performers, musicians, and designers to present entertaining, edgy, and socially relevant shows. www.outoftheboxtheatre.org
THE PRODUCING UNIT
A group with a mission to present recent, important, and meaningful dramatic material that would otherwise not be seen in our region. Focus is on presentation that plumbs beneath the surface to offer surprising and powerful experiences. http://www.facebook.com/TheProducingUnit
ELEMENTS THEATER COLLECTIVE
ETC provides free, accessible, and professional quality theater to under-served communities. The goal is to incite the cultural growth of community by crafting poignant theatrical works that spark discussion and cultivate human connection. ETC provides opportunities for artists and other creative people to develop and showcase their skills, while creating a strong sense of community in art. www.elementstc.org
Live theater, and the shared experience of live performing art, unifies people. By putting us in touch with our most primal emotions and experiences, the gap between ourselves and others- socially, culturally, racially, economically- narrows. Our capacity to empathize and recognize our commonalities instead-increases. We are more likely to seek to understand and collaborate with others, rather than to dismiss or judge them. While it is true that movies can also illicit these types of feelings, there is nothing more compelling than being in a room full of people who are sharing story and narrative with us, in real time, connecting us back up with ourselves and others!