In praise of live theater

“Directing teenage actors is like juggling jars of nitroglycerine, exhilarating and dangerous.”

Stephen King, author

Children seem natural – animated with grins, grimaces, gestures, even creating dialogue while playing individually or with others. Coming of age, growing from infancy to adulthood only to succumb to old age, is a progression of role play. This is the essence of William Shakespeare’s line, “All the world’s a stage” from “As You Like It,” written in 1599, an acknowledgment that expression is an important part of life.

“You’re on Candid Camera,” was a television show that caught people unaware with hidden cameras. Today Americans have 224.3 million smart phones that are checked eight billion times a day, increasing the vulnerability of being recorded. How one expresses themselves through appearance, facial expression, posture and gesture is important in making a good impression.

In a time where technology dominates, the remark by Patrick McCrory, governor of North Carolina, who said “It’s not based on butts in the seats but how many of those butts can get jobs,” reflects the conventional wisdom that the study of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) leads to employment and humanities doesn’t. Christian Madsbjerg, author of “Sensemaking: What Makes Human Intelligence Essential in the Age of the Algorithm,” disagrees. He said, “The humanities aren’t a luxury, they are your competitive advantage.”

The study of theater arts is thought by some to be like a circus – appealing to the wanderlust of young men and the romanticism of young women, diverting energy from what is productive. On Sept. 6, 1960, the dynamics changed forever in the first televised presidential debate, when John Kennedy seemed to best Richard Nixon based on style – appearance and poise. Twenty years later, Ronald Reagan, the star of the film, “Bedtime for Bonzo,” a comedy about a psychologist trying to teach human morals to a chimpanzee, became president. Now those that expect success don’t ignore the elements of performance, from makeup to eye contact.

Acting experience builds self-esteem and awareness of one’s presence, listening, responding, being an effective voice in conversation with others. Having a live, year-round theater with professional actors who share their joy of performing with schools and civic groups is so unique that most communities like Alpena aren’t aware of not having one. Thunder Bay Theatre’s mission is to “provide high quality productions and educational opportunities.” The tradition of greeting patrons as they exit the theater is about more than attending a performance, it is an expression of gratitude to the men and women who formed Thunder Bay Theatre and the community that continues to support it.

A humidor, which once stored cigars, remains in Thunder Bay Theatre, a reminder of days past and the frustration of renovation done by necessity not design. The governing board has decided it’s time the building became a theater that is comfortable for patrons and able to attract talent, so it has initiated a capital campaign to support that. Acting moves “over, under, around, and through” our lives, but best of all it entertains. Support Thunder Bay Theatre, a bit of Broadway on Second Avenue.

“I love it when you go to see something, and you enter as an individual, and you become a group. Because you’ve all been bound together by the same experience.”

Tom Hiddleston,

British actor, producer