There is something that only happens in live theater, and it's unmistakable when it does. It only works if every actor, every musician, the writers, and the audience somehow all find the same resonant frequency, and suddenly something new emerges. It's linked to story, to motion, to character, to music, rhythm, breath, and dance, to 'the temperature of the room,' and it's like watching a movie but with an added 17 dimensions. Each moment becomes pregnant with meaning, with emotion, energy, love, 'magic,' and time stops.
I think the living seed of that magic is what you chase and dialog with the entire time as a writer, because out of it come the dramatic dynamics, cadence of the words, every detail of the music, the unique, specific workflow of creation, collaboration and development for each piece. It's the same energy current the bards of antiquity tuned in to; it's here for us if we only open ourselves, cross the threshold into another world, and seek it out.
What we do with it is important, because it's extremely powerful and can touch us deeply or change us. The stories we tell, and the specific angle we use to tell them has the potential to communicate at an intuitive level to anyone with a human nervous system.
To me, that means theater has the potential and responsibility to innovate stylistically at the same rate as film, peak TV, modern pop and postclassical music. We also have a responsibility to seek out new manifestations of this energy from groups who have been underrepresented culturally. There may even be an expression of political power or relationship to Nature that we haven't discovered yet in our artform.
Theater came from ancient ritual and the Sacred, from humanity's earliest experience of Earth and the Cosmos. We have a responsibility as writers to tap into that relationship as deeply as we can, because it can make us more human, raise our experience of joy, and evolve us in ways we haven't yet fathomed.
Andrew Drannon is a writer and composer based in New York. He hails from Memphis, Tennessee, where he worked as Professor of Music Technology and Composition at Rhodes College. He holds an MFA from NYU's Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program and was a composer fellow at the Bang on a Can Summer Festival. In 2018, he formed Awen Productions, an arts organization dedicated to innovative new work that helps people connect.