Why theatre is essential to our society

Following Hillcrest’s production of Hairspray, it’s important to talk about why theatre is important. The arts seem to be an increasingly underappreciated medium that as a society, we don’t realize the importance of.

Hillcrest’s own theater teacher, Mr. Long, said, “Theatre was invented by the Greeks in order to create social discussion. That’s how theatre was invented; to give them a way to discuss how to be human beings, and how to be better human beings. I think that’s where it’s helpful, is it helps us study our humanity.”

Hillcrest’s fall musical is always chosen based on what the Theatre Department directors feel the community needs to hear at that time. In this year’s case, Hairspray is primarily about racial tensions in 1962, in the thick of segregation and takes place in Baltimore, where racism was (and still is) a big problem. Hairspray was created (and chosen as our fall musical this year) to spur discussions about accepting others regardless of skin color or body image, a relevant discussion still, all the way in 2018.

“We are increasingly more in our society encouraged to latch on to our point of view and be strong about how we view the world, and theatre does the opposite of that, which I think is really a healthy balance to keep in your life,” says Long.

Most importantly, theatre is essential because it helps people to develop and practice empathy. “It helps you see the world through someone else’s point of view, and I think that is so powerful. I think that is what is going to heal all of us,” explained Long.

Seeing someone else’s point of view in context with the issues that they deal with helps an audience understand why something, like racism and body-shaming, is a problem, and helps those audience members reflect on their own experiences and make changes in their lives. Theatre helps promote change in individuals and communities, making it one of the most important parts of society today.