Psychological Benefits of Theatre
The psychological benefits for a performer vary from person to person. The natural human response to performing in front of an audience of strangers can be your biggest fear or second nature, but for the most part, the majority of performers experience very similar psychological responses. It seems to be human nature to immediately consider the way others will react to your performance; whether they will love you or not, whether they will give you a standing ovation or a pity applause, or whether they will sing your praise to others around town or not. It would surprise me if anyone who has performed in front of an audience before has not considered the possibility of their audience’s response. Either way, it is beneficial for our mental well-being to put ourselves in the spotlight once in a while to humble ourselves in front of others in order to develop poise and confidence in ourselves while offering your utmost consideration for the audience through hard work, constructive criticism, and determination to succeed.
A performer also benefits from theatre by exercising their brain through creativity, imagination, and memorization. They must play a character, who is consumed with human conflict that must react to the other characters while dealing with their own problems one way or the other. This may or may not align with the performer’s personal moral code. This causes the performer to take into consideration someone’s views and beliefs, while in turn learn from the array of consequences that arise from choices they make. Being the performer also allows you to let your emotions and reactions run wild! You may not being a loud mouthed, selfish, cheating, criminal who only cares about being famous in your real life, but when you’re acting the part, it sure is exhilarating! On the other hand, you may truly understand the struggle to be good enough or noticed. Whether you relate to your character or not, performing the role allows you to connect on another level with the nature of human conflict, experience the magic of thrill, and find yourself a more cognitive and self-aware person in the end.
The audience experiences psychological benefits directly through the enjoyment they experience. Just having more opportunities to go to a show generates frequent feelings of relaxation due to the calming effect free time has on the mind. Then, the more frequently people participate as an audience member, the more likely they will be to have a better tolerance for groups of people and for cultural diversity within their community. It has been amazing to see how many more people in the community start going to theatrical productions, and find themselves a part of a new social network or participating in a production themselves.
Just as the performer is challenged with the human conflict, so is the audience. We are all experiencing the story together, solving the problems in our own mind, and reacting to the consequences the characters encounter. This ultimately enhances our ability to problem solve, work with others, and communicate ideas.
The psychological benefits of the theatre within a community are limitless, especially since community can relate to a region, a city, a neighborhood, ethnic groups, etc… My response reflects the impact I have witnessed amongst the community members of Kankakee County, of which it has been an absolute blessing to experience. Not only has theatre increased the sense of collective identity and efficacy, but it has also developed a new level of involvement by connecting organizations to each other, bringing people together that might not otherwise come into contact with one another, while also giving participants the experience in organizing and working with local organizations, nonprofits, and fellow supporters. Theatre consistently promotes volunteerism and cultural diversity, which improves health, self-expression, enjoyment, while reducing stress and neighborhood crime. At the same time, an individual community member feels a sense of pride and belonging within their community. These impacts then foster creativity within local industry to spur economic growth and revitalization.
By Kendra Souligne