The ancient Greeks believed that theater provided catharsis-a much-needed release of emotions-in its viewers, leading to a greater purification of the mind and body. While this Aristotelian way of thinking has long fallen out of fashion, it still holds true that the theater gives people a chance to escape, to insert themselves into the drama of characters whose lives are radically different from their own. Theater gives us a chance to learn, to exercise our powers of empathy. It is through theater and other mediums of art that culture is born.
The actual, physical building known as the theater is the home to the theatrical events that enthrall us. Many people might think that theaters are fairly strictly divided into two categories: play/opera houses, or movie theaters. But these days, in order to keep the public's interest and diversify their offerings, many theaters dabble in both. A play house might put on movie showings every now and then as a special event-perhaps a children's movie to draw in a younger crowd, plus their parents. Movie theaters, while obviously unequipped to accommodate a full-scale theatrical production, will often show live screenings of operas or plays from famous opera or theater companies around the world. This latter practice of screening operas in movie theaters is especially important, given that many people cannot make the time or put aside the money to see a live opera performance. It is in this way that plays and operas can be brought to the wider public, and can be assured of the longevity of their appeal.
Also, many theaters put on performance events at reduced prices for students and seniors. Students are always looking for the best bargain, so being able to see a play or musical at a lower price than usual might induce them to spend a night out, instead of stuck in their dorm rooms with nothing to do. Some theaters take this concept a step further and offer free performances or showings as a way to demonstrate their appreciation for their patrons.
In a time when media piracy is at an all-time high, and most people don't bother venturing outside of the comfort of their home for entertainment, the importance of providing an attractive and always-changing calendar of events is not lost on theater owners. The magic of stage and screen is an enduring one, and must be preserved for generations to come. It is up to the public to ensure the future of the theatrical arts by patronizing their local theater.