Most children in America are made to put on a little play in grammar school, you work hard to remember a children's version of Romeo and Juliet, Cinderella, or do a musical version of a book you read in class. Your family comes to watch you spout out lines that you don't exactly comprehend and no one took time to explain, and then you hang your costume up for good. It seems that the excitement for theater had died out in America. Why go sweaty people, on a stage that either has one setting or makes you have to use your imagination, when you can just watch a totally awesome movie that has guns and Van Diesel? Recently, however, I have noticed more people buzzing about plays, about theater, about wanting to see plays in person. From new musicals hitting it big to movie renditions with A-List actors, America seems to be riving their love for the stage.
The match that started this fire seems to have been slow burning, but it has certainly made a difference: movies. But wait, didn't I just make a sarcastic reference about movies? Well yes, I did (although I do enjoy shoveling popcorn into my face to a Van Diesel movie). The thing is, usually when asked if they want to go see the movie version of a play people think of dusty old costumes and Shakespearean quotation they cannot comprehend, so they decline. Then they miss out on Meryl Streep crushing "Last Midnight" before turning into a tar pit . . . But it's movies like Into the Woods that have helped remind America how amazing theater really is. These movies are also making their way onto Netflix as Sweeney Todd was recently added in October (2016); where Johnny Depp portrayed an accurate depiction of a murderous sociopath in Victorian Era England.
The new Alexander Hamilton musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda has almost worked as gas for the American theater fire. Lin-Manuel managed to use rap in a similar fashion that Shakespeare used iambic pentameter and represent history in the same light that Shakespeare did. He managed to grab the attention of Americans of all ages and get them interested in not only theater but history as well, with scores of people reading up on the American Revolution. With the help of some killer raps, an amazing cast, and a break up song to rival Taylor Swift, Alexander Hamilton has won the heart of America. The new found love, or a reignited one, for musical theater Americans now have, has them raving about musicals, making memes, and singing their favorite songs with friends.
In 2003, Mary Baldwin University opened the doors of the Shakespeare and Performance Graduate school on campus. An entire masters degree dedicated to studying and preforming Shakespeare. It helps that downtown Staunton has the only recreation of Shakespeare's indoor theatre (Black Friars) where the students can go watch professionals, and even preform on stage themselves. Black Friars seems to have sparked a fire in Augusta County, Virginia. I have often gone to see plays there, and the entire building is packed with guests, some from a few towns over!
It seems that we have begun to dust off those grammar school costumes and remembered how to love the theater. I encourage you to watch some movie renditions, grab a seat in the front row in front of the stage, and enjoy the beauty that is theater. I can assure you: it is well worth your time, and is a great way to bond with family and friends.