Given that most people are oblivious to theatre itself—to say nothing of its awesome literature—perhaps the first response to the question “Why Read Plays?” is the classic comeback. Click the box.
The Many Reasons Why
I’ve organized them under four broad headings–Fun & Games, Personal Enrichment, Cultural Heritage, and Salvation, as described below. Hover over “Why Read Plays?” for tabs that link to a page for each—along with one for “Why Not?” Essays arguing all these reasons appear on blog posts under Category Why?
A play (as the name suggests), is the quintessential parlor game. Instead of playing cards, we read a play, and talk about it as we go. Sometimes we’re hilarious; sometimes deeply moved. It’s like all other games we play with other people—focused on the object, but digressing, interacting, sharing the experience.
Cold reads stimulate the brain, enhance communication skills (reading, listening, speaking, interpersonal), inspire imagination, foster friendships, and re-awaken interest in dramatic art, itself a treasure trove of intellectual and emotional enlightenment and gratification.
The western world is what it is in very large part because wise men wrote and produced plays that both reflected and profoundly affected their respective lives and times. From the Ancient Greeks till long past Shakespeare, they were how most people learned about the literary world (they couldn’t read), and their mesmerizing power both informed and moved them en masse, changed their hearts and minds, prompted riots and revolutions, causing church, state, and the upper crust to use (and abuse) them or ban them outright from the stage. If we are to have a future, we must understand the past, and the best source of that knowledge is dramatic literature.
In these hard, cold, digital times, controlled by corporation/people and corruption, ethnic/religious/economic/social/political divisions, the human race is becoming less and less communal, less humane. Even our diversions veer away from recognition of the one and only thing all hold in common. Dramatic art affirms our shared humanity. Cold reading is a simple first step toward the ultimate restoration of Theatre to its rightful place as the Temple of Humanism envisioned in The Wholly Human Art.
Why Do You (or Do You Not) Read Plays?
Comment, please. Or Join CR/I and post your reasons. We’ll link them here.