The Globe Theatre was quite busy at that time. Chatters and murmurs were heard here and there. The next scene was about to start in a few minutes. The cast members took their positions and when the curtains lifted- "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears", roared the actor, disguised as Mark Antony. Everyone’s attention was drawn towards him. Neither bugs nor the tempting aroma of the savories could waver their focus. They were completely immersed in the realm of Rome, as if they were Romans themselves, keen on reasoning the truth behind their beloved hero’s assassination. Even the modern-day cinematic universe may not succeed in enthralling its audience as this theatrical play did.
Why were such theatrical plays a big hit back then? With a real person in front of them (rather than a virtual one behind the screens), people were able to easily empathize with the characters. The tears they saw, the gestures they reacted to and the voices they heard were real and had life to them. Theatre was celebrated for such reasons and thus remained the top choice in entertainment for a long time. People had discussions on the plays they saw - grieved for an unsuccessful love and celebrated the victory of a valiant hero.
With time, every reign comes to an end. Theatre too had its gradual decline. With the dawn of the digital era, movies started occupying the front seat. People began flooding into cinema halls for a new experience. The big-screen view, lucid dialogues of the characters, audible even to the last rows and more descriptive scenes, weighed more than the empathy that theatrical plays were able to kindle. Now, storylines have no pause in between, except for intervals in the movie. Whereas, theatres had to pause in between scenes in order to set the stage for the next scene.
Nevertheless, the cinema industry depends on theatre for qualified actors. Acting for hours, graceful gestures, punctual dialogues are a piece of cake for seasoned theatre artists. Many movie stars have attained their fame through theatre. Virtuosos like Shivaji and MGR, who have won the hearts of many, were theatre artists before their debut in films.
The theatre halls, once crowded with eager spectators are now desolate with empty chairs. The sound of people cheering and clapping in standing ovation has now faded into silence. Still, the artists deserve all this, but the curtains are drawn.