Plays provide the intimacy of a living, breathing moment but also allow for a degree of emotional distance. As spectators rather than participants, play-goers may pick up on insights that are easily missed when one is overwhelmed with the day-to-day details of their own life.

Bright colors, extravagant sets and life-sized animal puppets compose the background of Disney’s “The Lion King,” which transports audience members to Pride Rock. The U.S. National Tour of the show directed by Julie Taylor opened on Jan. 9 at the Hult Center for Performing Arts.

A fist-sized necklace hangs around Jimmy Snyder’s neck. The tiny, intricate beading forms an eagle with its wings open wide against a baby blue sky, a stark contrast to the rich green fields with people riding canoes along the river pictured below the bird.

Each school year brings a new season of theatrical productions to the University of Oregon theatre department. Past pieces have included classics such as Shakespeare, the French playwright Moliere and musicals like the notorious Bat Boy. Last year, Michael Malek Najjar directed Scorched, a c…