Theater could be done with almost nothing. A proper stage is not even needed. Two people are enough for a theater experience. A performer and a spectator. The quality of the text, the costumes, the make-up, or the scenography doesn’t matter. Then, why are there so many people who think that theater is elitist?
Perhaps, these people are thinking of big productions such as musicals. The kind of shows that only can be seen in New York, London, or other major cities. Expensive productions that need large investment and a lot of human resources. Subsequently, the expectations about the revenues are high. The more money you invest, the more earnings you expect.
These expectations have two consequences. First, the price of the tickets. They are usually high and unaffordable for many people. For example, a premium seat ticket to see The Lion King in Madrid costs 135 euros. A family of four would have to spend more than a half of the Spanish monthly minimum wage.
Prices are not the only consequence. There are other shows that are difficult for average audiences. For example, operas. They usually are sung in a foreign language (Italian, French or German). In addition, sometimes the music of the opera is not easy listening. So, a potential spectator must be accustomed to reading subtitles, or speak several languages and also requires a wide music education.
As a result, there are many people who think that theater is only for rich, highbrow and/or highly educated individuals and they do not even consider theater as an entertainment option. They are not concerned about it.
Are they right? No, they are not. At least in Europe, where public investment in building or restoring theaters is important and there are good theatrical facilities almost in any village. For example, the new one in Coslada, a small city close to Madrid, is the place that is usually chosen for rehearsals of the big musicals that will be premiered in the Spanish capital or have big tours around the country.
In addition, as they are financially supported by national or local governments, the tickets are not expensive. Some of them cost 3 or 4 euros per seat on the gods, and 12 euros in the stalls during the week. In other words, the prices are not an excuse.
And the productions? Are they not as good as the expensive ones? They might not be so spectacular, but they could well be better. Firstly, because they are based on better texts. It is not common to see a Shakespeare, Lope or Calderon plays in a private theater, but it is usual in a public one. Neither is it common that private theaters in Europe releases new plays, non-well-known playwrights, or companies.
In addition, since public theaters guarantee good work conditions for workers, they attract the best professionals and, many times, the most popular too. For example, Blanca Portillo, who has just won the best actress Goya 2022 on February, or Carmen Machi, a Spanish TV star. It means that they can offer good productions that can please audiences.
If this is the case, why is theater becoming a ghetto? Only for connoisseurs apart from stand-up comedies or big musicals? Competition could be the answer. There are a lot of fiction products in the entertainment market. Some of them are available at home for almost nothing. An Internet connection and a good TV, computer, laptop or even a mobile are enough to access TV series, films, or books whenever people want.
To have a real theater experience, however, people must go out of their houses at a specific time; They must buy tickets in advance and include it in their calendars, they must be in the theater on time and stay seated there during the performance till the end. Many things are considered, and nothing guarantees that the production will please you.
In the end, it is time which makes theater elitist. Time that people don’t have in western societies. People who resemble Alice’s rabbit, who are always in a hurry to attend to their usual life duties. It is not that they are not interested in or not well prepared to understand theater.
Most of the people like live events, they would rather somebody tell them stories instead of a machine. It does not matter how good the production is, it is alive. However, most of the time is dedicated to daily demands, and when they complete their obligations, they are so exhausted that they only want to rest. To be comfortable at home and to have a nap in front of television, because tomorrow a new burden is waiting for.
Edited by Nicholas Dale Leal
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.
This post was written by Antonio Hernández.
The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions.