At first glance, theatre is an archaic art form, utterly outdone by its more glamorous and accessible counterpart, film. Why, then, is it important that theatre persevere in this-fast paced culture fixated on consumption and immediacy? I recently found the answer from an unlikely source: a fabulously rich film superstar. Indeed, Cate Blanchett recently asserted that “Theatre is a space where you cross over from everyday life, because there are real people in that moment moving in front of you — you’re being invited to believe in a story and cross that bridge.”
I stumbled across this resonant insight in a recent write-up on Blanchett in Interview magazine. The article had little to do with the actress’ film career, instead focusing on her theatre endeavors. I was astounded to learn that she is an artistic director of the Sydney theatre company alongside her husband, Andrew Upton. As I tore through the lengthy article, I began to re-evaluate my own increasingly lazy approach to attending live performance in Winnipeg.
It’s widely known that our city has long been home to one of the most successful Fringe Festivals in the country. For two weeks each year theatre-goers, people-watchers and beer-drinkers alike pile into the exchange district and absorb more theatre than much of the rest of the country does in a year. Rain or shine, dedicated “Fringers” pull out passes and wait in grotesquely long lines only to sit in stifling theatres packed with fold-out chairs. Ultimately, they risk their $10-ish on something that might strike at the essence of humanity, but might also flop harder than a beer belly in water, or simply fall somewhere into the abyss of mediocrity.
Much to the chagrin of local theatre artists, this momentary passion for independent theatre dissipates following the festival. Understandably, it is difficult to brave -40 weather when you don’t have to. And even I, a theatre graduate, artistic board member and lover of the arts, often find myself whipping out a mindless comedy and a beer in lieu of getting ready, reserving a ticket and enduring the enviable socially awkward moments of attending a public function that is not set to the tone of thumping bass.
This is a shame. Theatre actually has much more to offer university students (aka: people on a budget seeking intellectual challenge and social awareness) than just reduced student-rates. At its essence, theatre is that incredible space Blanchett described — a space of “real people” and “invitation” to imaginative experience. Yes, some shows might be duds, but even then, the worst-case scenario is that you and yours at least have some hilarious ridicule material for weeks to come.
As such, over the next few weeks, All the City’s a Stage will profile some of Winnipeg’s independent theatre companies in the hopes of spurring you off of the couch or, at the very least, alleviate us of some of our excuses.