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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Theatre vs Theater

Just because it's always fun to beat a dead horse until it's blue, blue, blue...

I'd like to take an unofficial poll: Theatre or Theater? Which do you write, why do you write it, when do you write it?

13 comments:

Tim said...

I used to work at a movie theater when I was in high school, which somehow warped me so that now, "theater" always means movies and "theatre" always means stage.

David D. said...

I always took "theater" to mean the venue and "theatre" to mean the medium.

Joshua said...

I like theatre -

Scott Walters said...

Drama. ;-)

MattJ said...

I specifically remember a conversation in college where I was taught that "Theater" meant the venue, and "theatre" meant the field, artform, etc. So I've always gone that way.

Alicia said...

I too, have used "theater" as the venue and "theatre" as the art form.

Cassie said...

i agree with time. theater=movies theatre=stage. it could also be theater=a building theatre=the art form

Cassie said...

*Tim

Kim said...

Theatre

Fred said...

Having published a magazine feature story about Isaac Mishler, the Altoona, Pennsylvania, theatrical entrepreneur who built the Mishler Theatre in 1906, among other theaters, I ran up against the same debate. There appears to be a general plurality of opinion, although not carved in stone in any writer's style book, that the preference is "theater" for the brick and mortar building, and "theatre" when referencing the art form, actors' company, or other related organization in the abstract. And that is how I chose to write the feature story. Daniel Webster aside, who issued his edict long after the tradition of theatre was established in America, changing which spelling theatrical groups choose for their name or building seems immovable. But American English is filled with exceptions. What is important is to be consistent, although you will be more likely to be criticized if you use "theatre" as a generic noun for the building. Personally, I would like to see "theatre" used for the abstract and "theater" for the facility, with exceptions, of course, for proper names. Plays or movies cannot be shown indoors if you do not have a building--a theater--that exists. But, a theatre group can exist with or without the existence of a building. Stating this spelling preference in style manuals will enhance Webster's failed attempt to finalize this spelling and enhance a reader's ease in differentiating between the two.

Clear as mud?

Fred

bellarine3222 said...

Theatre, and most of the English-language words with the -re ending, is closer to the original Greek spelling (theatron). The flimsy distinction made here that the -er spelling is for the building and the -re spelling is for the art taking place in the building is just a silly rationalization. Use one or the other, but don't make up imaginary rules to define when to use them.

Colour vs color is a different matter. Color is closer to the Latin original spelling, the "u" was introduced by the French. Thus one should have no problem with the more straightforward spelling without the "u". Similarly with the "z" in words like ionize and rationalize... it is from Greek again (~izein).

Erik Aronesty said...

Those are not "imaginary rules". Those are very real cultural and colloquial distinctions and are the essence of how language is *made*.

I agree, it is common usage here (east coast united states) for the work "theatre" to be used to refer to art, or to a venue in which the art is more "serious" or refined, as in a theatrical production, versus "theater" ... which usually just means a movie theater.

A lot of this has to do with the notion that "theatre" is European (stereotyped as more culturally refined) versus "theater" as American.

The cultural wrestling over the word "theatre" is not over though. It evolves... even here on this blog.

ewleclerc said...

Shakespeare spells is Theatre. Therefore I spell it Theatre.