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3 Reasons Theater Isn't Just For Fancy People

In a Facebook group that I follow based on a deep fealty to our lord and savior Alexander Hamilton (reincarnated in 2015 as Lin Manuel-Miranda) I found a post that said, “Honestly, I didn't know it was rude to sing/clap in the theater, and I'm really glad I know now. I'm never gonna do it again, thanks to this group.” This makes me sad. It speaks to a larger cultural assumption about art I’d like to tackle.

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1. Access

Lin Manuel-Miranda has spoken up about the need for comprehensive ticket sale changes, because it is in no way fair that scalpers swoop up a gazillion tickets and then hawk them for sky high prices far above face value. Shows like Hamilton aren’t just expensive because there’s a great demand for a great show; they’re also expensive because people are preying on that demand to charge outrageous rates. What this does is create a class barrier where only the super rich can afford to go to the theater (because no one else can pay $10,000 to see Lin’s last performance, obviously.)

2. Class Mixing

The second way the idea that theater is for fancy people is bad is that it discourages class mixing, a great source of creation. Historically, theaters were places where the nobility was in with the rabble, and a pauper could play a king on stage, because the stage was the great equalizer of power for the actors and for the audience. Theater was also a source of power because it was a space in which nobility could be criticized, sometimes even to their face.

The idea that only “certain” types of people are supposed to go to Broadway musicals or stage productions attacks the cultural benefits of mixing classes with one another, where they might learn from each other and go out to create new things from it.

3. Message

The saddest thing that this idea contributes to is that many are shut out of messages that they simply should hear. Dear Evan Hansen, on Broadway now, deals with suicide in ways that are specific to the digital age. Hamilton sends the hugely important message that immigrants are a part of what makes America great, a message sorely needed for these times.

The idea that only fancy people with monocles and $100,000 jewels around their necks are the only people that should hear those messages, and that people like the poster above should feel that they’re not welcome because the theater is a place that’s prim and tidy and safe away from all the riffraff that don’t know the rules of decorum is, frankly, anti-art.

Art is for everyone, not a privileged few, so the sooner we get rid of the idea that the fancy people own it, the better off we’ll be.

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