PRE: Is it theater if it's live on TV?

A debate as old as ABC started doing their live re-enactments of famous musicals, again. If a theatre production is ‘live’ or just generally on TV is it still theatre?

Source: Chris Piascik

Source: Chris Piascik

At least not for me. Call me old school, but I think it stands that in order for a show to be classified as theatre it needs to be live and in the flesh. Well, I need to be there live and in the flesh.  I do know that this live televised version is probably helpful to open people to theatre that otherwise wouldn’t go. It could be they are not being able to afford it or living in a community that doesn’t have access to theatre... I get it. What I don’t really agree with is passing it off as theatre, because ultimately it doesn’t end up being a truly unique experience.

Here’s why it’s not a unique experience.

When you go see a live show it’s sure to be different than any other performance of that show. Whether is an actor's choice or even the smallest of details like an after show treat, this one performance will be exclusively different to this small group of people (in terms of the thousands of theatregoers there are everyday). A televised live show is a single performance that hundreds of thousands of people are watching, yes. But there is no room for that audience to spot small changes in the show overtime that would make their experience special to them. Also they are not the one choosing where to look, the camera is. 

I really believe you simply can’t compare a soundstage to a live performance on a classic curtained stage. It also gives people the impression that real Broadway shows are that ba- I mean “cheesy”. The reality is that many stories are told everyday through theatre it’s not just Mary Poppins or Sounds of Music over and over again.