Theatre vs. theater
Published: Sunday, March 23, 2008
Updated: Sunday, September 13, 2009 08:09
It has been a long ongoing argument between artists on what is the "correct" spelling of the word "theater."
The most common spelling in American venues is "theater," but that is not the case around the world.
In Europe most of the population uses the word "theatre."
One would assume that the spelling of a word wouldn't be such a big deal, but it is a touchy subject with many actors, directors, and theatrical audience members alike.
So what is it about the spelling of this word that brings such heated debate to the table?
For some, it is believed that people who use the -re spelling want to seem more sophisticated and use the spelling as a tool to show that they are better and know more about this certain subject.
Many professional theaters around the country use the -re spelling and this only adds to the aura of pretentiousness surrounding that specific spelling of the word.
To get more opinions on this subject I searched the Broadwayworld.com message boards about this issue.
I hit the jackpot and found an entire thread dedicated solely to this topic and I learned about many different opinions on this matter.
One opinion was that you use theat-er when you are referencing a movie theater or talking about movies in general and you use theat-re when you are suggesting the stage or Broadway.
Another opinion was that the proper English spelling of the world was theat-re and that when the American stage got a hold of the word they "Americanized it" by changing it to theater, which is apparently thought to be less fancy.
It is the same principle that is used with the words colour and color, honour and honor, and grey and gray.
The first of all the sets is said to be the proper English version and the second is the American version of the word.
I talked to one of my theater professors and he informed me that it was his impression that theat-re is the art form that one performs and theat-er is the building in which one shows that work.
Given that this man has a bachelors degree, a masters degree, and a doctorate in theater, this is the rule that I always tend to follow.
Webster dictionary has both spellings as interchangeable terms for theater and makes no distinction between the differences in meaning.
After learning about all the different arguments for how to spell this one little word I came to one conclusion.
People just like to find something to fight about-more accurately theater people just like to find something to argue about with each other.
I think because there is so much competition between theater artists, because they are constantly compared to one another they find anything and everything to make themselves feel better than another person.
At least in my own experiences I have encountered a lot people who would rather feel superior than have a civil conversation about anything.
Is the spelling of a word really worth all of that time and effort to fight about?
No, I don' think so. The bottom line is that the theater community should probably spend more time being creative and artistic rather than quarreling about what is the proper way to spell a word.