Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

The Science of Live Performance and Who It Leaves Behind

“Plays are meant to be seen performed live. You can’t always take your kids to a play but if you can, you should. The story can be conveyed in a movie, but it doesn’t engage the viewer in the same way.”

That is absolutely true. We have all sat through a class (usually in high school) where the professor has asked us to read aloud some theatrical text. For most of us, it was Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet. How many of your classmates could identify Rosencrantz or tell you how Mercutio died? Probably not many. How many can tell you how they felt at the end of the script (beyond the word “bored”), if the only exposure they had was in an over-crowded classroom? Chances are that small interaction in class was as close as they got to the text. If they never had the opportunity to view the text as it was written, can we blame them for it not sinking in? An article for Science Daily examines just how beneficial seeing live performances of texts can be for students.

Seeing a text alive on stage, with performers, lights, and costumes, can engage a viewer in ways that reading a worn out, reused, archaic textbook cannot. We know exposure to art is important, and Science Daily is telling us that it increases both social and intellectual skills. My question is not about the value of the performances, but it is about the students who will never be able to go to them.

There are students all across our country that do not have access to live performance, whether due to their school or their home life. What happens to them? Do we lose them in the shuffle?

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2 comments on “The Science of Live Performance and Who It Leaves Behind

  1. carolynsupinka18
    October 23, 2014

    This is a really interesting article! Even beyond quantifiable educational benefits of seeing live performances, I think there is an emotional or experiential factor that can only be fully realized at a live show. As a writer, I can appreciate the ‘experience’ of reading a text or a book, but the experience of live theater is totally different. Text should definitely not be used as a replacement for the medium of theater. Several roommates and friends in college were actors or directors, and their free tickets got me into a wide variety of shows, both student-produced and professional. I will never forget some of them. For those not in the theater world, or young students who have never been exposed to it, it’s hard to imagine just how transformational one live show can be!

  2. lcrowley2014
    October 24, 2014

    Great – and heartbreaking – question. With such undeniable benefits of having the arts in schools, I would hope this one day doesn’t need to be a question because schools would be equip with at least ONE arts class that could scrape together a performance of their own. That way students could learn to connect to literature through their production of a play or as an audience member of that play. That kind of interaction between the arts and what a teacher has to teach is like the new National Arts Standards that Debora Hansen talked to us about: http://nationalartsstandards.org/

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