Great article by Neil Labute about why Theatre is better than film.
The limitations of the box are enchanting. I love the simple confines of a theatre – a black box, a proscenium, a found space. Even in my film work I prefer to move people within the frame rather than to move the frame itself. As a student, I used to hunt down new spaces to work in, trying to adapt shows to the places I would find. Pinter’s One for the Road under the stairs of a Natural History Museum; Bond’s Passion in the open air of a city park; my own work in a local bar with people sitting around, drinking and interacting with the actors. Movies require a technology, a screen, a bucket of popcorn. Theatre only needs someone to stand up and say: “Listen to this.”
One point made by Michelle, my actress friend, which is fairly obvious. In film, it is so important (and so hard) to get clearance to use images and locales. With theatre, you hardly need anybody’s permission to do anything. Theatre is more abstract than film and so requires less material to create the scene. Increasingly, the “realism” of a film’s sets are increasingly seen as a criteria for evaluating a film. In Spider Man or Harry Potter, for example, one can express admiration for how the director realized the magic through special effects; one can savor the vicarious thrill of flying or doing superpower things.
This hearkens back to Scott Miller’s point that the abstraction of comics make it easier to identify with. In theatre/books/comics, the spectator needs to fill in the parts with the imagination; with TV or film, the spectator doesn’t need to. That is not to say that TV shows (for example) can’t do a lot. In many ways, Third Rock from the Sun uses special effects that are more suggestive than evocative, and its filming on a live stage ensures that the audience focuses on the characters than movement, camera angles or special effects.