I did not find a satisfactory answer to ‘why theatre’. I tried many different takes on the issue. For instance, I could say the reason for theatre is the tradition, but that does not mean theatre has value. When I looked for a satisfactory answer to the question ‘why theatre’, I wanted to figure out why a person would go to or take part in the theatre rather than something else. Of course, other things have value other than theatre, and definitely some take precedence over it when it comes to importance to people’s well-being and happiness.
One way to deal with this is to say that theatre is better than a lot of the ‘entertainment’ people normally expose themselves to in our culture. I would agree that a lot of popular television is of low quality in matter of its content and message when compared to theatre. This suggestion does not however mean that theatre necessarily replaces time spent entertaining oneself in mediocrity. The other reason would be to say that theatre provides a unique experience or, in other words, provides something that no other medium can.
While differences exist between the different mediums of entertainment, uniqueness presents two problems. One: even though an experience is unique, that does not imply that one ought to experience it. There are all sorts of things that one should avoid or one has no reason avoid to or attempt to experience. Two: once one has a unique experience, what is to motivate a person to have the theatre experience again?
I think this objection made me shift my thinking from the question ‘why theatre’ to what ‘good theatre’. While seeing the same play over and over again to see small derivations (extra uniqueness) is a curiosity, the quality of the theatre matters is the best motivator. There is no reason to watch a bad performance again and again, but the goodness of a performance gives theatre a normative recommendation. When considering between the best of live theatre and the best of television or literature, live theatre’s time restrictions makes it a priority over the mediums which can be done at another time. In conclusion, I could not explain ‘why theatre’ but I feel confident that there exist reasons to go to good theatre beyond simply personal preference for the art form.