Studio 58: Theatre and Compassion

Every so often, I have the privilege of addressing the students in the Studio 58 theatre program. I love these talks, partly because I love theatre and students, but also because it gives me a chance to establish a relationship with emerging artists that is both professional and human.

I show up. I reveal my biases. And they grill me about how I go about my job. It works. I often have very good working relationships with the artists that come through this program, and I’m convinced that’s largely because we’ve had a chance to get to know one another. (I’d also be more than happy to speak with students in other training programs, and I have done so on occasion, but no other institution has shown such consistent dedication to the process as Studio 58.) Of course, none of this means that I give Studio 58 students and grads preferential treatment when I review their work. But it does increase the chances that they’ll have a more meaningful context for understanding my reviews.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of taking part in one of these chats. The students were great, really engaged; they asked me tons of questions.

As I was responding to one of them, I articulated a core belief about theatre that I don’t often get to spit out: the belief that theatre is essentially a compassionate art form. Because playing a character well involves identification, one of the great lessons of acting is that everyone is doing their best. Sometimes, that best isn’t very impressive, but it’s still the best. And, for those of us in the audience, a darkened auditorium presents us with the possibility of opening our hearts to the experiences of others. In the theatre, we get to release the constricting lie of coherent identity and admit, silently, that we contain more than we let on—more chaos, but also more love.


About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.

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