• By: OLM Staff

Live Performance Is Not Dead

Do you  ever feel like it’s just too much effort to go to see a live performance when you can stay at home and watch whatever you want on your numerous devices?

You’d have to get out of your ratty bathrobe, leave your house, turn off your cherished cell and ipad, sit/stand shoulder to shoulder with strangers in a theatre to witness an event that demands all five senses be engaged.

Technologically obsessed youth, middle-aged hipsters and their parents are attending live shows in droves across this nation.

Why do so many people continue to support live performance when numerous virtual realities are accessible at our fingertips?

“Going to see live performance can be an effective way to escape the harshness of one’s reality. It can have a soothing effect on everyone, even those suffering from anxiety or depression. For example, I recently attended a music concert and found myself in a trance, mesmerized, my mind free of clutter and stress for over three hours. It can heal as well as entertain,” said a clinical counsellor on the phenomena.

Consider the definition of “entertain”: ‘to amuse or interest an audience, to offer hospitality, to consider something.’ Live performance is perfectly suited to meet these values.

Film, video and TV also entertain, but there is a major difference. With live performance there exists an element of looseness and uncertainty. We get to watch real people do spontaneous and unedited things right in front of our very eyes. Their performances can fall flat, soar to the heavens or be ho-hum. In other words, there are no guarantees. Mistakes, slip ups, miscues, technical difficulties are there for the audience to share as it happens before our very eyes.

Because each performance is different, we become part of the experience, rather than sitting outside of it, the computer or TV screen a form of protective armor. It’s like comparing a video of a solar eclipse to watching it live. There is nothing quite like the immediacy of being present when something special is going on, never to be repeated exactly the same way again.

Brenda, a theatre aficionado, recently saw the same role played by three different actors in a live performance piece (White Rabbit Red Rabbit) at Magnetic North Theatre Festival in Calgary. “Each actor was completely unique in his/her handling of the same text – to the point where the play’s impact on me depended on the actor’s commitment to the writer.”

Live performance is not limited by place, it can happen anywhere – theatres, outdoor stadiums, swimming pools, mountain tops, under bridges, inside old warehouses, subways, the list is endless.

Going to see your dream entertainer perform live is a sign of respect and affection. Those of us who don’t make the effort are missing something special.

Live performance, be it in arts and culture, sports or politics, creates a different kind of immediacy, one that we can “reach out and touch.” When watching on screens large and small, the experience is more illusory. Electronic devices efficiently and effectively remove us from the flesh and blood experience of being human. When engaged in a live performance we think, see and feel things differently, gain new awareness, sense our smallness and vulnerability, because we are actually there.

Which might explain why occasions such as festivals, sports, rallies, protests and lectures continue to draw crowds. No matter how much technology invades our everyday lives, we all crave the sensation of being connected to a living, breathing, communal live experience.

Thanks to Barbara, Bev, Brenda and Lanie for their comments.