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The ultimate goal of Cold Reads International
is to create a public demand
for good, cheap, live dramatic art on stage
A Human Need
Without good live theatre, humankind becomes inhumane.
Have you ever seen a well-made play well played?
When really good actors, well-directed, perform great plays for an appreciative full house, it’s better than the Super Bowl.
It doesn’t happen often.
This page and related posts presume a time when it does, and argue why it’s something we all need.
The Willing Suspension of Disbelief
What happens when you watch a play? Two things at once. Actors perform on a stage in present time, and characters engage in conflict somewhere else, out of time. You know the mundane truth, but when the play’s well played, the artifice engages your thoughts and feelings, inspires revelation.
iction And you believe them both, trapped between two worlds, susceptible to thought and feeling. This is the mystic essence of theater as religion. Like the body and blood of Christ: you recognize the real-world truth of the charade, but if you don’t believe the art as well—if it doesn’t carry you beyond mundane reality—you have no business being there; either the play is very bad (or badly played) or you’re incapable of appreciating it. (Some people can’t be mesmerized; some don’t believe in God.)
A well-made play well played, like a church revival meeting, creatively captures our collective spirit, takes us in our minds somewhere and tells a story that, if we don’t believe, we willingly suspend our disbelief, become involved,laugh, cry, learn. es community
it catalyzed the Golden Age of Greece, revived the medieval Catholic Church, epitomizes Elizabethan England and the Splendid Century of France, and introduced the world to Darwin, Freud, and Marx (among other things).
Of all the countless ways we humans pass our idle time, only theatre shows people—always, in the flesh, wholly and exclusively— explores our one unarguable common bond—humanity.
The Wholly Human Art
Of all the ways we human beings pass our idle time, only theatre shows people, in real time—saying and doing things people say and do, and nothing else.
All the other arts abstract the human. Performers recite, sing, dance, play music; visual artists draw, paint, sculpt; writers work with words, composers with notes. Theatre combines them all into a comprehensive collaboration that explores a wholly human situation.
As for all our other pastimes, in the main, their goal is to escape Put them all together with a crew of carpenters, electricians, seamstresses, backstage workers, hairdressers and make-up artists, fundraisers, ticket-sellers, ushers and you have the collaborative village we call Theatre.
Cold reading is no substitute for being there.
We read plays in part because the real thing, live on stage, is scarce, expensive, and too often disappointing. That said, no other human pastime is as essentially and exclusively human, and when a play’s well-written and well-played, there’s nothing more humane. The fact that only one in twelve adult Americans (8%) sees a single play a year is even more disgraceful than our reading deficiency. (See A National Disgrace.) If you’re among the vast majority, get your fanny in a seat ASAP.
Our theory is that as we read, we wonder what it’s like to see and hear, and start attending live performances. As more of us read, more fannies fill the seats, quality improves, and over time the (dying) lively art resuscitates, revives, and thrives.
Most of the reasons covered in Why Read Plays? apply (in spades) to being there. Aristotle’s Plot, Character, Thought, Language, Mood—plus Spectacle, the element that makes the others come alive for many people all at once, all “willingly suspending disbelief” for the occasion, mystically transported to another time and place, where we see the world through a playwright’s eyes. It’s magic!
Culturally, it’s halfway between religion (from which it sprang), and spectator sports (to which it descends), where living actors (priests, players) entertain large audiences (congregations, crowds) in playhouses (churches, stadia) with words and actions from a script (scripture, playbook) that engage and arouse our thoughts and feelings.
Historically, it catalyzed the Golden Age of Greece, revived the medieval Catholic Church, epitomizes Elizabethan England and the Splendid Century of France, and introduced the world to Darwin, Freud, and Marx (among other things).
FROM HERE IT’S ALL A JUMBLE
So why do we avoid it like the plague? Two very good reasons and a raft of Lame Excuses. Granted, it costs too much, and most of what we see is disappointing, but if we don’t go, it won’t get any better.
This page and related posts explore the revolutionary notion that live theatre is an essential human need, without which we are less humane.
The Greater Good
Of all the countless ways we human beings pass our time, only theatre, live on stage, “holds the mirror up to nature,” as the saying goes. The one and only wholly human form of art, it portrays human beings (always and exclusively) using every aspect of themselves to engage our collective imagination and show us who we are, and why, and what we have in common.
Think about that.
All the other arts are specialized. Performers speak, sing, dance, play music; visual artists draw, paint, sculpt; writers work with words. Put them all together with a crew of carpenters, electricians, seamstresses, backstage workers, hairdressers and make-up artists, fundraisers, ticket-sellers, ushers and you have the collaborative village we call Theatre.
Think about that.
The Real McCoy (Fun and Games?)
What happens when you see a play. Compare to other things we do.
Through the Ages
The World’s a Stage (Everybody Acts)
sees world. makes us believe we’re in another place and time. transports of magic that the willing suspension of disbelief, the metaphysical we read plays For all the good reasons we read plays, there are better ones for theatre, live on stage.
If you’re one of the other ninety-two percent, see Live on Stage for some startling insights regarding our most human art, and plan a visit to your local theatre soon.
When People Go to See a Play
as Often as They Go to Church (or the Coliseum),
the World Will Be a Better Place to live
The Fun of It
A play’s a game by definition. People on stage pretending for an audience pretending to believe. Assuming a well-made play well-played, it’s better that the movies. (See Social Acticity.)
Granted, seats aren’t cheap and well-played plays are rare, so few of us know the wonder of “the willing suspension of disbelief.” The ultimate goal of CR/I is theatre that restores that wonder to the world.
But there’s more. “All the world’s a stage,” says Shakespeare, “and all the men and women merely players.” Life itself is a game, and everybody acts. Actors study how it’s done, but everybody does it all the time. What if everyone knew how?
The Greater Good
Through the Ages
From the Golden Age of Greece to Elizabethan England and beyond, theatre best thrives at the peaks of civilization—and vice versa. Greek dramatists wrote plays that brought about democracy.
Did you know that?
And much of what we think we know about English history is from Shakespeare, at the Democracy dramatic art on stage has reflected and affected the course of human history. Much of who we are today is based on Greek , to Shakespeare, Moliere, Goethe, Ibsen, Strindberg, Chekhov, and Shaw, when
athletes glorify aggression; public speakers prey on minds—motion pictures are just that, for all their cgi-reality. No other human activity “holds the mirror up to nature,” as the saying goes, like a good play.creating abstracts of humanity.
Posts that address this proposition appear in Category Why Theatre?
The Ultimate Human Experience
Click Here for posts relating to this topic.
Theatre is one of the Big Three human pastimes, smack dab between Religion and Spectator Sports.
Most Human of All Forms of Art
Most Americans perceive the wicked stage as the antithesis of righteousness,
From its roots in the rites of the Greek god Dionysus, theatre has always been religious in all ways but one—theatre deals with human beings, life on earth; religion is for God (or gods) and the Afterlife. (One can practice both.) One sprang from the other; both are virtually identical in form: an audience (congregation) gathers in a theatre (house of worship) to see and hear actors (priests) interpret words from plays (holy scriptures) created by a playwright (god), and discover the meaning of life (salvation). There’s even the mystic spirituality that happens when a play’s well played.
Moreover, theatre has always been either intimately entwined with or violently rejected by religion. When they’re in sync, they make the world a better place. Greek drama defined the Golden Age; church drama in the Middle Ages paved the way for Shakespeare. But when Roman mimes made Jesus the butt of their jokes, the Catholic Emperor Theodosius excommunicated all actors, banned all public performances, and for the next thousand years, throughout the Christian world, plays were proscribed by canon law.
Did you know that?
And when they reappeared, ironically, in Medieval times, it was in the Catholic Church, as priests acted the Marys and the Angels to launch an avalanche of Church plays that overflowed into the streets all over Europe, on pageant wagons, played by tradesmen—until they became a threat to kings and queens, who banned them in favor of secular productions with professional actors in plays by the University Wits and Shakespeare—until the Puritan Oliver Cromwell toppled the throne and closed down all the theaters.
Did you know that?
And when King Charles reclaimed his crown, the Puritans sailed off to the New World. Underlying all the reasons Americans shy away from theatre is our ingrained puritan heritage.
Lost these days in the vast chaos between the Church and the Stadium…
Theatre—live on stage—is essential to human(e) existence. Of all the things people do to pass the time, onlyNothing people do is focused specifically and exclusively on understanding who we are as people. Nothing has more power over the way we think and feel than a well-made play well played. It stands between the Church and the Coliseum, afterlife or death than a well-played play good play, well played, ly human(e) than theatre. If we saw plays as often as we go to church, the world would be a better place.
Without theatre a culture has no common metaphor, nothing to say we’re all in this together, we’re all people.
But that’s just the beginning.
So much divides our culture, more and more as things fall apart. Individuality and diversity have degenerated into fear and hatred of all not like ourselves. We’re all people, no matter what our infinite differences. If we went to the theatre as often as we go to church (or play golf), the world would be a better place.
Nothing in the world compares to seeing a great play performed by people who understand it and know what they’re doing. It’s better than the Super Bowl.
Long Live the Lively Art
Of all the countless ways we humans pass our time, only theatre—live on stage—brings us all together to affirm and explore our one unarguable common bond—humanity.
Think about it.
When a play has meat and the players shine, nothing in the world compares.
More profoundly, the magic that occurs when people congregate to share a common moment watching other people on a stage pretending to be still others, somewhere else, involved in tragicomic situations, and (here’s the magic part)
Believing the Pretense!
can blow one’s mind.
Maybe reading plays will increase attendance…
Theatre is an essential element of human civilization, without which we are less humane. It “holds the mirror up to nature,” shows real people (always, wholly and exclusively), in real (immediate) time, acting out a story about people. Standing strong (historically) between the Church and the Coliseum, it gathers us together and mystically transports us to a world created (imagined) by a playwright (god), where we believe what isn’t real (because it is).
Nothing stirs the human soul like a well-made play well played, and we’d much rather be there, but what little “there” there is, is too expensive and, all too often, uninspired. Live theatre has been in popular decline since silent movies, especially in America, and with it, our collective identity.
But a play on stage—actors in costumes, scenery, props—is Spectacle, the last (and least) of Aristotle’s Elements of Drama. All the others—Plot, Character, Thought, Language, and Mood—are wholly contained in the script, as literary dialogue, intended to be spoken aloud and shared, if not on stage, among ourselves.
The first rehearsal for a stage play is a cold read of the script. After that the actors learn their lines, rehearse their blocking, create their characters, and perform. Cold readers skip all that and move on to another play, but for that one rehearsal, we’re part of the process. And the more we read together, the closer our attachments, more we come together as a troupe.
Live theatre is not only equal to its religious and philistine rivals as convivial community entertainment and psycho-emotional ecstasy; it’s also