Theater or Theatre?


I’m sure you’ve noticed the difference before. And “er” or “re”, I guess that is the question or at least a question. I looked up both words in Webster’s dictionary, and the same definitions are given for each word. When I checked into other sources, I found that this topic is more heated than I had realized it to be. 

So this week I’m sharing some of my thoughts about the significance of these two spellings of a very special word.

You probably deduced that one is the Americanized version of the other. That “er” version is typically used by movie theaters and the “re” version is usually used by stage theatre companies, but not always. Some consider the “re” form to be elitist and some companies dodge the word entirely (think Mark Taper Forum, Lewis Family Playhouse, Fontana Mummers, Ophelia’s Jump). I confess that I have sometimes used both spellings interchangeably.

Is there, perhaps, another significance to these interpretations? Maybe. Or maybe not. I think that the more important fact is that the art of theater, or theatre, is an art that makes an impact when it breathes, moves, dances, sings, screams, whispers, cries, laughs, and lives. It is a human art, after all, not a word, or spelling of a word, or a building or location for that matter. More on that, next week.

For more on this topic, read: