Theatre crosses social barriers

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Theatre is said to encourage people to cross social and cultural barriers. However, this is only true to a certain extent. The purpose of theatre is to educate, moreover, to analyze and evaluate the performances. People judge and reflect on their lives of what they’ve seen. Thus, the judgments are based on personal views and beliefs. The comments and criticisms are open to biased opinions. It has been said, “All the world’s a stage and all of us are actors” so for that reason, theatre becomes a showcase of human behavior in different situations and social and cultural circumstances.

However, whether theatre crosses social barrier is questionable. Maybe theatre does cross social barriers and has something to say to everybody. There have been plays about wars, racism, sex, social classes, gender prejudice, and so much more with messages to everybody and to cross social barriers so there will be a mutual understanding of each other. One theatre production can be offensive to a certain clique or certain social group of people, thus, generated floods of criticisms and can even go to an extent such as boycotting the production.

What I’m implying is that theatre does have something to say to everybody differently and thus, generates different opinions. Cliques or religious groups have the right to criticize or differ in opinions, but for them to take it personally until an extent, for example boycotting the production, imply that theatre certainly does not cross social barrier because it excludes them from watching it due to not being able to accept the controversy. For some, theatre is only to entertain.

For some, theatre is meant to change or force people to reconsider and re-evaluate lives. The questions arrive here. Has it educated the people? If theatre about consequences of war is to educate people, what’s happening in Iraq? Were there longitudinal effects of the purpose of theatre? Judgments on theatre are based on strong personal perspectives and beliefs that are unwilling to compromise and gets offended if it goes against their view. Thus, theatre does not cross social barrier.

Nudity and sex scene on stage is considered one of the most controversial theatre barriers. People find it just as offensive as having a women on stage in Shakespeare time. Women were not allowed to play a role on stage in Shakespeare time as well as in many cultural drama performances such as Beijing opera and Japanese Kabuki in the past. People with disabilities are rarely seen on stage. If theatre were to cross social barriers, different races, disabled people, oversized people should have the same and equal opportunity to play a major role on stage.

However, people can view it as a joke and rather than judging the context of the play, they judge the actors. Thus, for theatre to cross social barrier completely is difficult. Another point possible to consider, if theatre crosses social barriers, any race and size of the actors on stage would be acceptable. However, this is not the case in many countries. For example, why do people in Asia pay more to watch the same production by a foreign production company rather than by an Asian production company?

Perhaps, it can be explained by the “perceived expertise” which the Asians have on foreign companies. Also, if theatre crosses social barriers, it should be available for all social classes of people to watch. However, the price of the ticket is soaring high for the people in lower classes to afford. Does this mean theatre is for the rich and wealthy people? Watching ballets, operas, famous plays are viewed as part of the culture in the high-class society in history and also to the present to a certain extent.

Thus, theatre does not cross social barrier. It is important to note that social and physical barriers were created in order to maintain the status quo. For an example, the characters for Japanese theatre kabuki refer to “dance, music, and craft”, but originally it used different characters which meant “out of balance” implying something that might be considered exotic, racy, or debauched and people such as the government found it offensive. This shows that theatre does not cross social barrier.

Much of the history of Kabuki in the 17th to 18th century ended with Shougun banishing the actors and dancers, and considered them as social outcasts where as theatre managers were known as riverbed beggars. They were given a pleasure district and if they moved outside it, they were obliged to wear a large umbrella reed hat, the same type of hat worm by criminals. This certainly does not indicate that theatre crosses social barriers. Women were banned from performing and the plays involved some element of sexual cross-over since boys and men replaced women.

The rise of Kabuki in Japan and Shakespearean theatre in England is similar to one another. Although the Tokugawa era imposed an unchallenging acceptance of the status quo and the mood in Renaissance England was to “free the spirit”, they have similarities that showed theatre does not cross social barrier despite their independent development. Both had male actors played all female roles in a period of time and both had an existence linked with the pleasure districts.

Thus, this suggested that theatre does not cross social barrier. Also in the 18th century, it was discovered that a high ranking lady official in the service of the mother of the Shogun was involved in an affair with one of the principal actor’s government acting. Punishments ranged from banishment to execution for anyone who knew of the affair. All theatres were closed for three months and some was destroyed. This evidently proves that theatre does not cross social barriers.

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