Frission, or the Unbearable Virtue of Molecules Gathering
I wanted—needed—the show to happen in person this year.
The profound connection that we form by physical presence in theatre, in partnership, in place, to be together as humans was an experience sorely, painfully missed.
What does it mean to be in the same room together for theatre? Why is it so different?
Many of us theatre makers were both challenged and illuminated by the fact that theatre turned into a de facto film, TV, or streaming experience for a period of time. Perhaps the show was shared from slow internet connection to shaky smartphone video to broadcast quality streaming, but through the power of technology theatre persisted, thankfully. (Was there really a doubt? As we know, theatre has “persisted” for thousands of years.) For some, this technological shift brought the wonderful surprise of newfound audiences, expanded reach. All artists know that a digital copy of our art reaches more people, and in our society, we have been taught that “more” equals “better.” So again I ask – why is it important that it be in person?
As theatre makers we perhaps understand more acutely than others that it truly is not about quantity, it is about quality. To know that you are not alone means something. In my experience, I’ve found that it means everything.
During the “theatre as television” times we may have had, say, 100 people in the box. In the box of the smartphone screen in the box of the online interface in the box of the computer screen within the box of a room inside another box of the building. The box is the reality. To reiterate, I am grateful for the pivoting of all big and small theatre organizations and makers who responded to that challenge. Yes, we still shared theatre. We still shared an experience between creator and audience. We still shared time.
But in live theatre, we not only share time, we share molecules.
When you are in the theatre with the actors and the audience, you are the co-creator of the experience. You not only laugh and listen and gasp and growl with your fellow theatregoer, but you are not in the box anymore¬. Whether it is a smartphone screen, a computer screen, or a cinema screen, the screen is inherently a one-way conversation.
The inherent tangibility of theatre means that one is reminded that one is a living, breathing organism, and though a living, breathing organism is indeed fragile, to gather with other living, breathing organisms is something so inherently necessary that it cannot be quantified.
The theatre is not a box. The stage is not a box—it is a place.
It is a place where humans gather to share imagination. This is a place where the molecules themselves gather – yes, an inherent risk – but here the vibrations are felt with no intermediary of technology; they are felt literally and crucially air to air, body to body. These molecules agitate, pressed together, just like in a pot on a stove, bouncing, battling, then boiling, when they finally break the surface and fly free into the air. The molecules continue their journey, spilling from that space of imagination into the streets of reality, the alchemy of proximity that creates magic and the alchemy of gathering that creates transformation, in other words, the alchemy of theatre.
Sara Campos-Silvius (she/her) is a queer and multiracial Latinx creator currently based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada in Treaty 6 Territory. First and foremost a writer, she is also a theatre artist, filmmaker, musician, and performer. Sara loves to explore off the beaten path and her works run the gamut of comedy and horror, rock musicals to erotica, delivered with her signature imagination and a heartfelt insight into the oft-absurd human condition. Sara is a writer-director and her short films Power Chord and The Inner Ring have screened at the Edmonton International Film Festival, Toronto International Women Film Festival, Image+Nation Queer Short Film Festival, Dance: Made in Canada, FAVA Fest, and the Art Gallery of Alberta. Her playwright production credits include the comedy-horror Moonie And Maybee Dig Up A Grave at Nextfest 2022. Her first poetry chapbook Sword and Smoke is published by Armistice Press. Check out her work at saracs.art