Going to the theatre is a special treat for many people. Whether it is your favorite musical, a movie adapted into a play or classic Shakespeare, there is something for everyone.
Theatre has many more personal and societal benefits in addition to entertainment and enjoyment. According to new research published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, watching a live theatre production can increase our empathy for the groups depicted in the play and may even result in changes in charitable behavior. The participants showed changes in their attitudes toward racial discrimination, income inequality, welfare, corporate regulations, wealth redistribution, and affirmative action. They also increased their charitable giving after the performance.
Watching a performance that is so powerful connects you not only to the actors on stage but to your fellow audience members. This heightens a sense of community, which is only going to get more important and more valuable in a post-pandemic world. It is also an immense draw for young people to participate in theatre, giving them confidence and a connection to like-minded and passionate individuals. These skills and connections will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
The engagement with the theatre, whether it be through active participation or passive engagement, encourages a concept called divergent thinking or thinking in multiple directions. Immersing yourself in a play often leads to a process of discovery, whether it is figuring out where the story goes or sometimes relating to a character or storyline and discovering something about yourself. This is a common theme in live theatre entertainment. Many plays hold a mirror to society and force guests to take a step back and have a second look at the world we are living in today. Lots of plays are intended to teach and test your moral compass. There are many theatre genres that exist explicitly to call on the audience to reflect and examine.
Data shows that people that attend performing arts events are healthier and have better mental health. Not only this, but it enhances your knowledge and vocabulary as well. Theatre also shows you different perspectives on different issues, which can help people be more open-minded and less quick to judge. Theatre is always changing and evolving with the times, so there is always something to be learned. Next time there is a performing arts event going on near you, I encourage you to go!