New theater trends to check out for the theater-adverse

Dec 16, 2011, 6 a.m.

Advances in both technology and creativity have revolutionized the world of theater by breaking the fourth wall and essentially every other rule that has ever restricted the industry. Although we've come a long way from the Roman Colosseum, the diaspora from traditional theater is especially notable in the late 60s and early 70s. It was in this time frame that rock musicals such as The Who's Tommy and Jesus Christ Superstar entered the scene with often controversial subject matter. Musicals took on a whole new form with Andrew Lloyd Webber hits like Cats and Phantom of the Opera, which both took big risks considering the mood of 1980s theater.

New trends are emerging at even more rapid speeds in the current theater industry, where playwrights and performers are more willing than ever to take risks and continue to impress audiences with the remarkable evolution of theater. If you consider yourself adverse to theater or a newbie to the art form, consider the following latest theater trends to prepare for the exciting and constantly evolving theatrical world.

High-tech performances

No longer limited by lack of electricity, the theater industry has benefited dramatically (no pun untended) from modern technological advances. Likewise, audiences are equally benefiting by being able to witness and become captivated by a truly magical performance through the use of lights, confetti, harnesses, and other modern equipment designed to create an illusory and charming spectacle. The most notable use of modern technology in current theater is in the recent rock musical Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark, which featured exploding packages of "spider webs," digital projections of comic book villains, and air fights between Spiderman and the Green Goblin just 40 feet above the audience.

Interacting with the audience

Ignoring the limitations of the "fourth wall," performers like Blue Man Group literally draw the audience into the show by inviting members from the audience to contribute to the performance. The style of Blue Man Group is already Avant-garde in its own right, but by utilizing performance techniques such as audience interaction they have truly pushed the envelope in the industry. Theater that encompasses the audience within the performance has a way of embodying the mental, emotional, and physical.

Spirituality on the stage

From mainstream Christianity to lesser-known religious sects such as Mormonism, a major trend in modern theater is incorporating spirituality into the theme of the show. Although many performances both in the past and the present have embodied a worshipful tone (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Godspell), recent trends have also put religion in a controversial context (Altar Boyz, The Book of Mormon). Although the new controversial trend may be offensive to some, the spirituality of the religion seems to be universally celebrated despite poking fun at the religious tenets involved. Matt Stone and Trey Parker (creators of The Book of Mormon) describe the show themselves as "an atheist love letter to religion."

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