Theater vs. Theatre

Let it be known now and for all time that in the debate about whether to spell the word “theater” or “theatre,” I side with the former, for what are largely emotional and esoteric reasons.

Let it be known that while I respect those who prefer “theatre,” and that I understand how they prefer to use “theater” for the building and “theatre” for the art form, I still believe “theatre” is potentially overly artsy and off-putting for the great masses of America, for whom we could stand to make more plays, lest our art form slide into further irrelevance.

Let it be known furthermore that while I have heard from some of my colleagues that their patrons are comfortable with “theatre,” I nonetheless hold that it’s not only their patrons they should be worried about, but also those who are not yet their patrons, who (I fear) might find the “theatre” spelling alienating.

Let it also be established that I cannot read the word “theatre” in my head without hearing it in a French accent, thanks to my French-speaking wife, and I worry that others might feel the same awkwardness.

Let it be known to the world that I would like more hard data about how Americans — particularly non-theatergoers, and definitely NOT theater practitioners — would prefer to spell it, and that if they prefer “theatre,” I would spell it that way myself, much though I’d struggle to get used to it.

Let the argument be settled, however, in the fullness of time, by the natural evolution of language, the forces of which will always remain mysterious and unpredictable.

And until then, let us be friends, no matter how we spell it, because (to paraphrase greatly the wise Howard Sherman), this is really small potatoes, you know?

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