Okay, Okay, I Surrender, “Theater” It Is


It’s going to take a while for me to adapt, seriously, but I have finally finally finally been dragged kicking and screaming – kinda like Obama coming around to Gay Marriage – to the conclusion that from here on out I will use and write only the word “theater” when mentioning “theater” instead of  using “theatre” when mentioning…uh…”theater”.

This is gonna be hard.

Now, I think I’ve always used “theatre” because of my Scottish background. My mom is Scottish. No, she’s actually Scottish. Off the boat Scottish at 18. Still has the brogue. Kind of a Colorado-Springian version of the Glaswegian tongue. My mother wrote the word that way. “Theatre”. Old English, Scottish, I dunno. And there was that always kinda interesting way of perhaps saying that word written that way, right, with the “e” and “r” inverted? That was cool? Like what’s-his-face from Masterpiece Theatre used to always say? “I luv the theeyata.” He must’ve written it that way. Hell, the “r” and “e” practically inverted off his tongue like an Olympic diver doing a reverse pike off a twenty meter platform. Oh, wait, Alistair Cooke! Yes, him. Theeeyeta.

And yes, there have been many adamant pleas from friends and foes to write it the “right” way and the “correct” way and the “proper” way and blah blah blah.

And yeah, I think I learned somewhere along the way there that “theatre” was what you do and “theater” was the place where you did it and that just made it even more confusing.

But none of these are the reasons why I’ve decided to finally go over to the other team.


I just think “theater” looks more American.

That’s right, homies! Pure jingoism! God-freakin’- bless the U S of A!

Here’s the Wikipedia (hate hate hate Wickepedia but it’s just just there damnit it’s just right there!) definition, kinda, sorta:

Theatre (in American English usually theater[1]) is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place.

You see it? You feel it? The poetry, the horror, the utter inanity of it all?

One of the things I love most about my country is that if we don’t happen to invent something, we’re also really good at just taking someone else’s invention and making it better.

Hey. It’s the truth. Look at the different kinds of cuisines that are perfected here. Chinatown, Little Italy, New Orleans. Look at most music that migrates. It almost always gets better when it gets over here. Many sports like basketball and baseball and football had their original roots in other countries, then we just perfected them sombitches. Yeah, soccer we still suck in, but that’s another story!

Anyhooters. So that’s why I’m making the switch.”Theater” looks like an American made word. That’s it. I’m going American. That solid “er” rather then that oh-so fancy-schmancy “re”. Seems to just fit. “Er” as opposed to, well, “re” that sounds like an “er”.

I told you this would be hard.

That’s all I got. I don’t need any of yer high-falutin’ reasons for why I’m making the right choice or the wrong choice I’m just doin’ it! Makin’ the leap. Blazin’ the already scorched trail. Steppin’ out.

From here on out I officially pledge before the LemonHeadNation that I will make every effort to use “theater” when writing about anything related to, well, theater.

It will be difficult and I will need your full support. There will be rough roads ahead, turbulent seas, but I know, with your help, I will someday fully complete the transformation.

Theater. Cuz it’s American.

(Just so you know I typed every damn one of those words up there with an “re” before I changed them to “er”. This. Will. Not. Be. Easy.)

Filed Under: colin mitchellFeaturedPonderings


Colin Mitchell About the Author: COLIN MITCHELL: Actor/Writer/Director/Producer/Father, award-winning playwright and screenwriter, Broadway veteran, Marvel comics scribe, Van Morrison disciple, Zen-Catholic, a proud U.S. Army Brat conceived in Scotland and born in Frankfurt, Germany, currently living in Los Angeles and doing his best to piss off as many people as possible.

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  1. Howie says:

    About time.

  2. kan says:

    theater=the place where theatre happens.

  3. I went “er” long ago — “re” seems piss elegant to me. Plus, if it’s good enough for the New York Times…

  4. Jason Rohrer Jason Rohrer says:

    I quote myself, in one of my first pieces for the Lemon, October 27, 2011:

    “What’s theater? Or theatre, if your pretension requires a foreign spelling? (I use American orthography because I live in America. And no, regardless of what your guru tells you, one spelling doesn’t refer to a building and the other to an art form, or to a particular collective. Either may be used interchangeably and correctly to refer to both. So stop validating your pretension by calling it reason. It’s self-important, alienating nonsense, is what it is. If you insist on posturing your brand of art in some arcane fashion, don’t be surprised when lay audiences – the people for whom you ostensibly are doing the work – are scared away from your shows. You’re intimidating them by signaling that your work will be so fucking precious that it cannot expect to connect with the man in the street, that underwhelmed schmuck who just wants to spend his buck and learn some truth without suffering your condescension. Are you, as an artist, an important member of society, vested with secrets and magical formulae specific to your craft? I hope you are. But so is a doctor. And when he decides to indulge his esoterica such that he hangs a shingle as der Mediziner, watch his practice dwindle.)”

    So, where you been, dude?

  5. Doin’ theatre, makin’ theatre, seein’ theatre, you know…

  6. ha! I *just* went through the same agonising decision. We Australian’s spell it “theatre” but I, too, have caved.

    ‘Theater’ from now on, unless of course that’s the correct spelling of the company (e.g. Theatre Banshee).

  7. Jay McAdams says:

    I guess I’m the last man standing.
    24th STreet Theatre

  8. A Producer says:

    So that’s why we’re having such trouble attracting audiences, we’ve been spelling it wrong this whole time.

  9. Corwin says:

    I always thought the “re” was tres outre.

    But then, I suppose we might as well accept we are all “outer” our minds.

    And after all, to “er” is human.

  10. hahaha – nice one, Corwin!

  11. Wow. That was simply sublime, Corwin. I am honored to have inspired such a linguistical ballet.

  12. Betsy Zajko says:

    Well put! Now, we wonder: Will Bitter Lemons consider dropping the Royale ‘we’? We are your diehard fans. No need to hide…we love you.

    • Hmmm. Well, first of all, thank you, Betsy, but secondly, we are somewhat of a “we”, yes, I do most of the writing, but my partner Enci is a constant presence and advisor, especially when it comes to site-wide changes and stances. So my question to you is: would you rather I bring some more “I” into articles that are purely “my” opinion?

    • Betsy Zajko says:

      Hmmm. Yes, well, Enci is pretty bad-ass and she deserves a we. I warn you though, on opinion pieces if you do decide to drop the we and be the I, be prepared for new chest hair growth. I’m told this can be the side effect. Sadly, even among women.

  13. If I grow any more chest hair I’m going to have to be officially designated a rain forest.

  14. MR Hunter says:

    Better chest than back hair…