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The Best Quotes About Theatre

Updated June 14, 2019 539 votes 239 voters 37.7k views

List RulesMust be a famous or well-known quote. Vote for the theatre sayings that strongly resonate with you, and downvote any you didn't like.

A list of the best theatre quotes and sayings, including the names of each speaker or author when available. This list is sorted by popularity, so only the most famous theatre quotes are at the top. The authors of these historic theatre quotes are displayed next to each quote, so if you see one you like be sure to check out other inspirational theatre quotes from that same writer.

This list answers the questions, "What are the best quotes about theatre?" and "What are inspirational theatre quotes?"

This list includes notable theatre quotes by various authors, writers, playwrights, speakers, politicians, athletes, poets, and more. Vote on your favorites so that the greatest theatre quotes rise to the top, as the order of the list changes dynamically based on votes. Don't let your favorite theatre sayings get to the bottom of the list.
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  • 1
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    22

    The stage is not merely the meeting place of all the arts, but is also the return of art to life.

    Oscar Wilde
  • 2
    24
    7

    The drama's laws, the drama's patrons give, for we that live to please, must please to live.

    Samuel Johnson
  • 3
    21
    10

    I want to give the audience a hint of a scene. No more than that. Give them too much and they won't contribute anything themselves. Give them just a suggestion and you get them working with you. That's what gives the theater meaning: when it becomes a social act.

    Orson Welles
  • 4
    21
    10

    The theater, which is in no thing, but makes use of everything -- gestures, sounds, words, screams, light, darkness -- rediscovers itself at precisely the point where the mind requires a language to express its manifestations. To break through language in order to touch life is to create or recreate the theatre.

    Antonin Artaud
  • 5
    15
    6

    The theater, bringing impersonal masks to life, is only for those who are virile enough to create new life: either as a conflict of passions subtler than those we already know, or as a complete new character.

    Alfred Jarry
  • 6
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    13

    A talent for drama is not a talent for writing, but is an ability to articulate human relationships.

    Gore Vidal
  • 7
    13
    6

    Good drama must be drastic.

    Karl Wilhelm Friedrich von Schlegel
  • 8
    9
    2

    Drama assumes an order. If only so that it might have -- by disrupting that order -- a way of surprising.

    Václav Havel
  • 9
    9
    2

    The theater needs continual reminders that there is nothing more debasing than the work of those who do well what is not worth doing at all.

    Gore Vidal
  • 10
    9
    3

    The theatre, for all its artifices, depicts life in a sense more truly than history, because the medium has a kindred movement to that of real life, though an artificial setting and form.

    George Santayana
  • 11
    8
    2

    If a playwright tried to see eye to eye with everybody, he would get the worst case of strabismus since Hannibal lost an eye trying to count his nineteen elephants during a snowstorm while crossing the Alps.

    James Thurber
  • 12
    9
    4

    I had learned to have a perfect nausea for the theatre: the continual repetition of the same words and the same gestures, night after night, and the caprices, the way of looking at life, and the entire rigmarole disgusted me.

    Isadora Duncan
  • 13
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    12

    The virtue of dress rehearsals is that they are a free show for a select group of artists and friends of the author, and where for one unique evening the audience is almost expurgated of idiots.

    Alfred Jarry
  • 14
    7
    2

    It's one of the tragic ironies of the theatre that only one man in it can count on steady work -- the night watchman.

    Tallulah Bankhead
  • 15
    7
    4

    Drama is based on the Mistake. I think someone is my friend when he really is my enemy, that I am free to marry a woman when in fact she is my mother, that this person is a chambermaid when it is a young nobleman in disguise, that this well-dressed young man is rich when he is really a penniless adventurer, or that if I do this such and such a result will follow when in fact it results in something very different. All good drama has two movements, first the making of the mistake, then the discovery that it was a mistake.

    W. H. Auden
  • 16
    3
    0

    The pit of a theatre is the one place where the tears of virtuous and wicked men alike are mingled.

    Denis Diderot
  • 17
    4
    2

    Theater of cruelty means a theater difficult and cruel for myself first of all. And, on the level of performance, it is not the cruelty we can exercise upon each other by hacking at each other's bodies, carving up our personal anatomies, or, like Assyrian emperors, sending parcels of human ears, noses, or neatly detached nostrils through the mail, but the much more terrible and necessary cruelty which things can exercise against us. We are not free. And the sky can still fall on our heads. And the theater has been created to teach us that first of all.

    Antonin Artaud
  • 18
    7
    5

    The theatre is the best way of showing the gap between what is said and what is seen to be done, and that is why, ragged and gap-toothed as it is, it has still a far healthier potential than some poorer, abandoned arts.

    David Hare
  • 19
    4
    2

    We need a type of theatre which not only releases the feelings, insights and impulses possible within the particular historical field of human relations in which the action takes place, but employs and encourages those thoughts and feelings which help transform the field itself.

    Bertolt Brecht
  • 20
    3
    2

    The drama's altar isn't on the stage: it is candle-sticked and flowered in the box office. There is the gold, though there be no frankincense or myrrh; and the gospel for the day always The Play will Run for a Year. The Dove of Inspiration, of the desire for inspiration, has flown away from it; and on it's roof, now, the commonplace crow caws candidly.

    Seán O'Casey
  • 21
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    3

    In a drama of the highest order there is little food for censure or hatred; it teaches rather self-knowledge and self-respect.

    Percy Bysshe Shelley
  • 22
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    2

    To treat a big subject in the intensely summarized fashion demanded by an evening's traffic of the stage when the evening, freely clipped at each end, is reduced to two hours and a half, is a feat of which the difficulty looms large.

    Henry James
  • 23
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    “Once you do a piece on the stage, you become that poem or you become that piece. That’s really who you are. I think that’s why some artists have stage names, you know? I don’t have a stage name, it’s pretty much just me.”

    Clinton D. Powell
  • 24
    3
    2

    The theatre is supremely fitted to say: Behold! These things are. Yet most dramatists employ it to say: This moral truth can be learned from beholding this action.

    Thornton Wilder
  • 25
    2
    1

    The theatre is a gross art, built in sweeps and over-emphasis. Compromise is its second name.

    Enid Bagnold