What Theatre Means to Me: Pedro Rothstein

Our blog series celebrates the personal meaning of the cultural and creative industries to people, from industry professionals, students and general audiences. This month, cultural researcher and theatre maker Pedro discusses how the theatre bug first struck him, and the impact of the coronavirus on the industry.

Theatre has always been one of my greatest passions in life. When I was 10 years old, I discovered this amazing, powerful transformative tool to express some of the deepest thoughts and desires that I felt I couldn’t express anywhere else. Back then, I was an introverted kid who liked reading books, so being part of a space where I could socialize without the constraints of other social settings was a breakthrough. Then and there, I found not only my calling but a purpose and an endless field of exploration of the human mind, body, heart and soul. The drama ‘bug’ bit me and I was never the same again after that.

Speaking of ‘bugs’, it’s been over a year that the new coronavirus emerged on the global stage and stole the scene. The ongoing pandemic is far from over and everybody feels and knows how much it has changed our perspectives on life, the way we work, how art is made. Needless to say, the consequences of the continuing lockdowns and the imposed social distancing rules have in our mental health are huge and not yet fully crystalized. Recovery will take time and decisive effort on all fronts and levels.

The economic and cultural toll has been heavy as well, with the performing arts sector one of the hardest hits: playhouses have closed, companies have disintegrated, professional and amateur actors have been struggling to make ends meet. In many countries, governments have failed to put together a comprehensive plan to tackle the issue properly, leaving hundreds if not thousands of individuals and businesses stranded or abandoned to their own mercy and fate. Tragic irony, right?

It is difficult to ignore the fact that gathering people together in the same physical place, normally in an enclosed space, is an essential part of what we understand constitutes the theatre. I remember asking myself how would the theatre and theatre-makers get out of this pickle? I mean, museums, cinemas or even music concerts can make sense online but theatre? Isn’t that a corruption or a deviation from its very raison d’être? Well, not really. The thing about theatre is that it is resilient and adaptative, just consider how hard it is for an emerging writer or director or producer to put on a new production under normal circumstances. Theatre-makers are used to having to struggle and fight for their voices and narratives to be heard.

What happened in reality is that theatre found ways to reinvent itself, going full-on digital. Quite the plot twist! Plenty of initiatives have appeared and accepted to take upon the challenge of keeping the theatre alive, creative and relevant – no matter what- and that is truly remarkable! I don’t think zoom theatre will be the major trend when things reopen, although it has made its name and it certainly has enlarged the boundaries of what theatre is or can be. I don’t know when this will happen but I know that the theatre world will emerge sounder from the ashes, livelier and more needed than ever!

Oh, and when I say theatre, I’m including classical and contemporary theatre, performance, musicals, dance, puppetry and all sorts of drama, the industry, the schools, the groups, and the audience, of course! Theatre and beyond…

So, what does theatre mean to me? For a long time, it meant my everything. But also, my nothing. Love for something can be so immense that ultimately it ends up blinding you. Love can’t be just vague words. It needs concrete emotions. It requires focus and sacrifice.

Drama can enable change – personal, collective, political and even psychological change. I believe in that very strongly. However, I also know that change alone can mean anything, it can go to one direction or another, it can represent progress in the best-case scenario but it’s never a given. We can’t take for granted that change is always positive (or negative, for that matter). Change depends on the actors pushing for it.

And the show must go on. Always.

By Pedro Rothstein

Pedro i a political scientist, cultural researcher, dramatic writer & theatre-maker. You can find him on Twitter @pedrorothstein and Instagram @pedddroanddres.