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About catharsis, pandemic and being present / О катарсисе, пандемии и присутствии

“Is live theater really necessary?” is a topic that has been discussed many times. This question has been raised by many philosophers and analysts of all times and origins. On one hand, anyone who has ever seen the eyes of the audience from the stage, breathed in unison with the audience, will respond without hesitation – well, of course, it is needed. It is necessary, just like air, water and food! Where else can you find such level of lively communication and empathy, if not in the theater!

On the other hand, it is hard to deny that the modern pace of life and information saturation per second and square pixel of a Tiktok video is much higher. Moreover, the phenomenon of “best moments” or “best of” is replacing the times when one would rewatch a favorite movie. So why then spend 3-4 hours on a trip to the theater (and yes, you have to physically go there!), get all dressed up, buy a ticket… So much hassle when the sofa is right there, right in the room, and the refrigerator is not far away...

The ancient Greeks used the term "catharsis" - cleansing. It was believed that art has such cleansing influence on a person, purifying one not only mentally, but also physically. Oddly enough, psychologists concur with this assessment. They argue that when we empathize with the characters and live through the drama with them, we rid ourselves of our own hidden fears that can cause neurosis. No wonder there are all sorts of art therapies.

One may argue that we empathize with characters in a movie, too.. I believe that anyone can define the differences between Zoom dates, socializing and celebrating from the live interactions. The past two years of virtual interactions have most definitely demonstrated the distinction between the two. Our brain, after all, was originally designed to gather information from a living person, which is exactly what we harness in the theater. We see everything at once - the face, a pose, an environment, contrary to what we would get from a video, where the camera chooses what we should look at.