Theatre & The Olympics

Jennifer Butler

  • OnStage Massachusetts Columnist

Watching the Olympics reminds me of being at the theater. Why is that you ask? It is because the Olympics along with Community Theater in general are some of the only places that I have seen true camaraderie.
While watching the Olympics I have seen high 5's everywhere and I also have seen an American swimming competitor take a selfie with swimmers from other countries in the warm up ready room. Then two gymnasts, one from North Korea and one from South Korea, took a picture together even though their country is divided. I have seen other examples of this during the gymnastics and throughout the entire competition. Most of the athletes wished each other luck or gave high fives and congratulatory hugs to those who have won the competition. As they say on TV, they do it “in true Olympic Spirit”.  Recently I saw the women’s 5000 meter track race, when two racers fell and helped each other up in order to finish the race. 

At the Olympics you are competing against others for that coveted gold medal, some from your own country and many from around the world.  Some just want to get on the podium to say that they are one of the best in the world at what they do. In theater it’s anywhere from getting a role in a show at the community level to the allusive Tony Award at the professional level and anything in between.  I have never worked on the professional level but I have worked at community theaters where things are so well run that the quality of the shows could be professional. So my experience comes from the community theater level when I talk about what I know. Working with theater I have seen actors tell each other to “break a leg” both before and after the audition process.

 In both the Olympics and Community Theater everyone you are with are after the same thing, the gold medal or the role in the show. But if you don't succeed, most are willing to admit that it’s because the other person, or people, were better on that night in that moment.

I must also note that there are cases of poor sportsmanship in both the Olympics and Community Theater. It’s not something that I have personally seen very often, but nonetheless, it does exist and I needed to mention that no one or nothing is perfect. People can easily become upset when they don’t advance to the finals, especially when they were expected to win gold. In theater it can happen when someone does not want to be a part of show, because even though they were offered a role it wasn’t the one that they wanted.

You see, the theater is my home and is something that I love to be a part of. What I have recently realized is that both the Olympics and the theater are unique experiences to be included in. And although I have never been to the Olympics, I can tell just by watching them, that like theater, no matter what you do or how far you make it, it’s a special place to be. Those who are involved both know and admit how special an opportunity it is. The way that the athletes feel about the Olympics is the same way that I feel about theater and that to me makes them one in the same.