connecting with an audience

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Whenever I begin writing a play the idea of connecting with an audience at large is the last thing on my mind. It didn't always use to be this way. Though I did learn pretty early on that trying to guess what an audience wants only produced mediocrity. So, I quit doing that. Since then, I create pieces that I would pay for and want to see on stage myself. I apply the same rule when directing a play. When the show opens I will usually sneak in and sit in among the audience to feel out what and how they respond to the piece. I do not expect everyone to respond the same way... as long as they respond... and if they do, I know that I still belong to the human race.

I bring this up because as an audience member experiencing a work on stage I will open myself up to connecting with the piece that is being presented. It took me years to re-learn becoming an audience member because I once was one of the people described below.

::warning - I'm about to make a damning generalization::

The trouble with most theatre folk... by virtue of the fact that they have received some training and have had some experience... they end up being the worst audience members you will ever want at your show. The reasons are really quite simple - the need to impose a narrow personal aesthetic and the arrogant notion that there is nothing they can learn from their peers. Many will walk into a theater insulated with the snobby attitude of being an "expert" and that they are doing their friends in a "favor" with their presence in the audience. They will then watch a play armed with the defensive focus of how differently they would have handled the piece or a character. Some carry this attitude in from being passed over in the casting of the play... or never even trying out. Others simply out of a (sick) neediness to feel important. Then, at drinks after the show they will get all pseudo-interllectual and tear into the production and say things like, "I can't believe the audience ate that shit up!" Oy vey! One can learn as much (and sometimes more) from a bad show as a good show. Now I'm all for a constructive critique as a means to improve a show... but that's not what most of these people do. To these folk I sometimes want to scream "If you're not getting paid to do this (and you're not)... IT'S A HOBBY!"

:: damning generalization over::

Now, on to more pleasant matters on the same topic. Last night I chose to re-watch "Shakespeare in Love". I thought (and still do) that it is an excellent movie. Clever, witty, bawdy and unabashedly romantic. Lots of "in jokes" for theatre nerds and Shakespeare scholars but also totally accessible for a general audience to enjoy.

When the movie was over I was thinking about how I related with a lot of it. In general I find that a connection is either found by something that triggers a similar personal memory or a desire for a similar situation being portrayed... or simply empathy. So, phrases like "I remember... " or "I wish... " play out within the inner conversation we have with ourselves while watching something.

My "I remember..." list from the movie includes:
  • The madness and insanity surrounding the mounting of a production.
  • The intensity and passion that explodes with a new lover.
  • The pain in having to lose that love.
My "I wish... " list includes:
  • That episodes in life had neat and tidy resolves like they do in the movies. LOL!
  • I had written that script and made tons of money from it.
So, what movie (or play) did you have those "I remember..." or "I wish... " moments that have stayed with you even until today?

EDIT: 10:30 AM
Here's something you can slow-dance to. I think all Mondays should start off with a slow dance or 2, don't you? Sinead O'Conner doing Cole Porter's "You do something to me". I first saw this years ago as part of the Red, Hot & Blue project and still own the CD. My favorite track though is KD Lang doing "So In Love".

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