When extolling the benefits of the performing arts, one often focuses on the advantages that accrue to children who participate in arts-related activities; those advantages include achieving higher grades and test scores, heightened self-esteem and self-confidence, and many other worthy goals.
Additionally, a vibrant arts scene often generates economic benefits for communities and their citizens. While these are truly important and valuable, I believe that arts performances provide hard-to-measure, difficult-to-describe enhancements to quality of life for individuals of all demographics—old or young, rich or poor, urban or rural, etc., etc., etc.
Each live performance is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will never again exist on this earth; differing factors affect personal response to that performance, but when the stars align, magic happens. Many of those who attended Darke County Center for the Arts first Artists Series presentation of this season encountered that magic, as songstress Lisa Biales spun her web of charm, grit, and talent to ensnare attention and affection, and ultimately viscerally connect to a majority of her audience.
Music can draw you in, and transport you away from daily cares to a magical place. Or, as a bittersweet quote from Elana Bolling, founder of Dayton’s Vanguard series of chamber music concerts which will soon cease operations after 53 years, explains in a recent Dayton Daily News article, “Music is the soul of whatever there is.” But the magical effect is not limited to music; dance, visual arts, and theatre also make spirits soar, transporting one to a happy place not quite of this world.
Regardless of whether or not a play’s plot line inspires interest or elevates expectations, magic can ensue. When we attended a recent performance of Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway at the Schuster Center, we were prepared to be underwhelmed by the show, a somewhat silly story with underlying artsy pretensions. So I was totally blind-sided by several moments of ecstasy when unheralded cast members displayed their singular talents with aplomb in a show-stopping number featuring a line of tap-dancing gangsters attired in trench coats and fedoras. Why was that scene so wonderful? I don’t know; it must be magic.
On Sunday, DCCA will present ArtsPower Touring Theatre’s production of the beloved storybook Madeline and the Bad Hat. Reading a story to a child or immersing one’s self in a book can produce magic as well, but seeing those characters come to life and watching events transpire in front of your very eyes can be even more meaningful. And those memorable moments live on, reverberating throughout the lives of those who experience and fondly recall them.
Unfortunately, attendance at live performances seems to be declining. Oh, blockbuster shows and mega-stars still draw big crowds, but my observation is that audiences are not turning out for most touring Broadway shows no matter how evocative the subject matter or magical the technical effects, and that opportunities to experience transcendent performances from talented artists no longer motivate people to leave their home and personal screens to substitute real experience for a virtual one.
Of course, for transcendence to occur, some investment is required of audience members. Those exhibiting a “show me” attitude without engaging their own energies will likely never find their expectations fulfilled, and sadly, will not enjoy the exhilaration to be taken away from a performance; pure joy, comforting solace, and uplifting inspiration leaving lasting impressions are but a few of the benefits derived from that esoteric bonding. The magic is there for the taking; pursuing the opportunity will enhance your life for at least one shining moment and perhaps forevermore!