by Cameron Frostbaum 18C
The concerns weighing on me before a show opens are will people show up and if they do attend will they enjoy their experience. I love my friends and family dearly, but perhaps having them sit in a dark room for a long time may not be the best format for engaging them. Why do people not enjoy the experience of going to theater like generations of the past? This question guided my research last semester as I attempted to sift out the attributes of theater practices throughout history that are worthy of reexamining. Was it the material? The seating arrangement? Were people sitting, standing, reclining, participating?
Theater cannot exist without the audience. The patrons that make up our community need to have a fulfilling relationship with theater or theater will simply cease to be a priority. This same search for the manual for gripping and meaningful theater has resurfaced during times of transition and innovation. Today all live performance must respond to the acceleration of everyday life and the immediacy that technology has placed on people’s impulses.
While studying in Spain, a chance encounter with Microtheatre revealed to me a panacea for theater engagement woes. The emerging Spanish Microtheatre Movement ignited a developing theater format that can meet the demands of the 21st century spectator. Microtheatre possesses all the necessary elements to engage audiences already accustomed to their smart phones and television streaming services. It provides a low risk evening of entertainment with all of the traditional benefits. Tickets are cheap, the performances are fifteen minutes or less and audience members can eat and drink in the performance spaces. No academic definition exists yet for Microtheatre; however, the working definition I use for this movement is “a form of theater originating in Spain, categorized by its intimate short plays performed for small audiences in flexible spaces and informal performance formats.”
In addition to my research, one of the main components of my work with Microtheatre has been producing Microtheatre shows on Emory University’s campus. Last November, I collaborated with my peers to produce Microtheatre Emory. Originally my goal was to focus on the spectator experience, but I soon found out what this project would mean for my theater community at Emory. With the help of an Emory Center for Creativity and Arts grant, I organized and produced Microtheatre Emory, an exciting evening of four rotating 15 minute plays written, directed and performed by students. We entertained approximately 100 Emory students, faculty, community members and theater professionals. Partnering with Emory’s Media, Literature, and Arts Outreach House (MLAO), I implemented a way to support the efforts of the student arts community by providing a full night of entertainment and a new opportunity for students interested in theater to hone their craft.
After reviewing the successes and challenges from last semester’s production and an opportunity to visit the only Microtheatre in the US, Microtheatre Miami, I am in the final stages of producing Microtheatre Emory again. On March 26, 2018, Microtheatre Emory will take audiences on another exciting adventure of four new plays. You can register for the upcoming show by clicking here.
As one of this year’s undergraduate Fox Fellows, I am gaining tremendous amounts of wisdom from attending Fellows’ Lunches and seeking advice from senior fellows. In our lunches, specialists in their fields present their work-in-progress. Afterwards, other fellows ask questions which not only enhance the presented work, but also offer everyone in the room an alternative perspective for digesting and relaying information. The rapidly approaching deadline for my honors thesis dominates most of my thoughts these days, and hearing such high level discourse has relieved some of that stress by improving my writing. Most of the fellows leave their doors open. The luxury of poking my head in to gripe about writers block with so many tried and true scholars allows me to share in universal academic struggles. I cannot express my gratitude for the quick conversations that end with “why don’t you try…”. More often than not, I leave those conversations motivated to apply the lessons I have learned. Soon my writing’s momentum has picked up and I am well on my way to finishing my allocated work.
The Fox Center has provided me the space and the mentorship I needed to complete my honors thesis project. Because the Fox Center has so many scholars from a wealth of disciplines, I find it fascinating to hear the fellows’ work held under the perspective of another field. This has been valuable for me as I consider the implications of what studying Microtheatre can mean for theater, but for the communication of human experience. Ultimately, I have found a common goal amongst the scholars of teaching empathy. Certainly, this must have been the goal of Bill and Carol Fox when they so generously supported the work of humanistic inquiry.
Cameron Frostbaum is senior with a double major in Theater Studies and Political Science. His honors thesis explores the Spanish Microtheatre Movement as a new theater practice for contemporary audiences. Frostbaum specifically responds to the National Endowment for the Arts study of the three greatest obstacles to participating with the performing arts: time, accessibility, and cost.