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On World Theatre Day, Why Live Theatre Still Matters

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Sundance Institute Theatre Program artistic director Philip Himberg

Philip Himberg

In 2010, playwright Anne Washburn was the recipient of a Sundance Institute Time Warner Storytelling Fellowship. In Ms. Washburn’s most recent work, Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play, the writer chillingly conjures the prospect of a post-apocalyptic world, wherein the “global energy grid’ has been obliterated.

Scene One finds a group of survivors sitting around a campfire attempting feverishly to reconstruct the one story they can all collectively recall: an episode of The Simpsons. As decades leap forward, that culturally embraced narrative tale—interwoven with other befuddled and hilarious memories of television, music and art—transmogrifies into complex and original storytelling: furious, desperate and poignant in its ambition to reach and connect meaningfully to its audiences. Live theatre, in effect, triumphs over near societal annihilation, and the ability to “make theatre” moves the world forward and celebrates our species.

At the center of this prophecy lies the “why” of the Sundance Institute Theatre Program. Even as the options for entertainment and storytelling multiply exponentially, and as technology expands its seemingly infinite offerings, the remarkable singularity of live time “in person” interaction stakes its territory as a cultural touchstone. We shall forever gather around the campfire and tell our stories. On World Theater Day, we create the biggest circle possible, and celebrate the borderless reality of our storytelling.


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