Aside from being fun, do you ever wonder why live theatre is important? The lights flash, and everyone around us begins to quiet down. All eyes are on the stage. The orchestra fires up. The show is about to begin.
Unlike a movie, live theatre feels more like an “event”. Something special. It takes a lot of people and tons of talent to put on a live show. We are lucky to live in a world where talented people can entertain us while doing something they love.
As a family who loves to travel and loves live theater, we’ve made attending shows an important part of our family vacations as well as life at home. Thanks to years of season passes to musicals, comedy shows on weekend getaways to Chicago, day trips to nearby plays, live shows on almost every Vegas trip we take and more, I’ve got this live theater with kids thing down pat.
Why Live Theater is Important
Live theater has long been a vital component of human culture, transcending mere entertainment to offer a myriad of benefits that enrich our lives in various ways.
Live theatre creates a connection between performers & the audience
One of the most profound elements of live theater is the intimate connection it forges between the performers and the audience. There’s an unspoken energy that fills the room, a synergy that doesn’t quite translate in recorded formats.
The actors on stage are reacting in real-time to your responses—be it laughter, gasps, or tears—and vice versa. Past research suggests that shared or collective experiences are more intense than solitary ones. When you share emotion with those around you, the feeling is amplified, deepening your engagement with the material and making for a more meaningful experience.
Live theater is a mirror to society and aids in introspection
The theater is much more than a spectacle; it’s a reflection of the human condition. Plays, musicals, and other forms of theatrical performances often touch on societal issues, be they political, social, or moral.
They hold up a mirror to society, helping us to question and understand the norms, beliefs, and challenges that make up our world. In doing so, theater becomes an instrument of introspection.
As you watch the unfolding stories and characters, you might find yourself empathizing, critiquing, or even rethinking your own views. You can discover something new about yourself and the world you live in by paying attention to the lessons subtly—or overtly—woven into the narrative.
Many forms of theater are designed to be didactic; they aim to educate or inform as well as entertain. This is particularly true for plays that carry moral or ethical lessons. From ancient Greek tragedies that explored themes of hubris and fate to modern-day performances tackling issues like racial inequality or climate change, the theater has often served as a platform for societal instruction.
Through compelling storytelling and character development, these performances can open minds and encourage audiences to think critically, fostering a more enlightened and empathetic society.
Live theater offers an enhancement of creativity and imagination
The theatrical experience is also an exercise in creativity and imagination for both the performers and the audience. As a viewer, you are asked to suspend your disbelief, to buy into the world that has been meticulously crafted on stage.
Whether it’s a hyper-realistic portrayal of a family dinner or an extravagant, fantastical universe, theater forces you to flex your imaginative muscles. You’re not just a passive observer; you’re an active participant in the creation of this alternative reality.
This mental engagement stimulates your creative faculties, enriching your ability to envision, understand, and empathize.
Add Live Theatre to YOUR Life
Not sure how to make live theater a part of your life? Here are my 5 favorite tips to help you get started.
1. Find a performance that interests you
If you live near any decent-sized city, college, or university, I guarantee there are many options available year-round. Google “your city live theatre” and see what you find. Take a look at the upcoming shows and give something a try – you never know if you’ll enjoy it until you go. Even though we live in the Midwest, because we are in Hamilton County, a suburb of Indianapolis, we actually have opportunities for live theater almost every weekend.
Even if you were to hate the show, it might make for a good story later. This has happened to us a few times and we still look back and laugh about the experience. It makes for a fantastic family memory and will probably end up being a fun inside joke.
Live in a small town? How about adding an evening of theatre to your next vacation plans? I always look for a local theater when we travel. Especially if I’m with the whole family or it’s a place that doesn’t have a vibrant night lift. An evening at a theater will give you something fun to do instead of just sitting in your hotel room after dinner watching Netflix or TikTok. It will also make for a fun vacation memory.
2. Create a plan on how to enjoy live theater as a family
Decide how much you enjoy live theatre (after trying out a show or two) and set aside the necessary amount in your budget. Try a few different genres and find what your family enjoys and decide how often you want to go to shows.
For our family, when the kids were little we took them to all the shows that were based upon TV shows they loved. We saw Clifford the Big Red Dog, Junie B. Jones, Max & Ruby, the Wild Kratts, and many others. This was a great way to introduce them to live theater but in a format that was family-friendly and based upon stories and characters they already knew and loved.
As they got older, we added Broadway musicals to the mix as well as Shakespeare in the Park and the occasional local play. As kids mature, their tastes change, so as a family, you may need to tweak your plans. Now, as a teenager, my son isn’t as interested in the musical (hopefully someday he will come back around!), but he does still enjoy comedy and magic, so we’ve pivoted and our family trips to the theater include comedy while I’ll take my daughter separately to the musicals she still loves.
3. Ways to afford live theater
Don’t think you can afford live theater? I get it, it can be expensive, but there are plenty of affordable options. Volunteering is one great way to save money on live theatre. Often you can offer to be an usher and you’ll get to see the show for free! This works really well for enjoying live theater in your own city or a nearby town, and especially for local theater groups or traveling musicals.
I’d also suggest checking out Groupon. Almost every month I see a show or two for a discount there, especially musical acts, comedy, and shows at smaller venues.
Speaking of smaller venues, if your high school has a halfway decent theater program, why not give that a try? I’ve been incredibly impressed by some of the talent at our high school plays and musicals. And, they are super affordable!
If you can set aside a chunk of money upfront, it is often less expensive to purchase season tickets. I like doing that because then I KNOW I’ll go – it gives me 5 or 6 guaranteed fun family nights each year.
Finally, consider alternate show times. Matinees are sometimes less expensive and I know several local theater groups that offer free shows a few times a year, such as our annual Shakespeare in the Park.
4. Think of enjoying live theater as an investment
If only some of your family enjoys live theater, consider making going to shows a special 1×1 date with whoever is interested. Although I love doing things as a whole family, a great way to strengthen individual relationships (and help your kids feel appreciated) is quality time with each child one at a time.
If you are lucky enough to have everyone on board with attending a live performance, make it a night to remember. We go to a nice dinner first (which doesn’t feel like a splurge since we paid for the theater tickets months ago!), head to the theatre, and then talk about the show on the way home. It’s a fun and special night that creates amazing memories for all of us.
If the show is a musical I’ll try to find the soundtrack on
5. Live theater is the perfect gift
Live theater tickets are a great choice for a family gift. Instead of more toys or stuff you don’t need, how about requesting theatre tickets from the grandparents as a holiday gift? There’s something about an experience versus things, right?
And if you have a trip planned where there is a show you think would be fun, purchase the tickets ahead of time and give them as a gift before the trip. It will add to the excitement of the upcoming family vacation, and give everyone a chance to learn a little bit more about what you’ll be seeing and doing when you are traveling.
Conclusion: Why Theater is Important
Live theater is a multi-dimensional shared experience that offers unique avenues for emotional connection, societal reflection, moral instruction, and intellectual engagement. Its importance is manifold, enriching our lives in ways that are as entertaining as they are profound.
Are you sold? Ready to plan a night out for yourself and/or your family? How are you going to do it? Don’t just think about what a great idea this is, take action NOW and give yourself something to look forward to in the coming months.
And, next time you plan family travel, do a search for live theatre at the destination and consider adding it to your vacation plans. It will add an extra fun element to your trip, and help you experience the location in a whole new way.