Friday, December 5, 2008

The Gift of a Great Audience

Audiences can be fickle beasts. They laugh. They're silent. They cry. They clap. They sleep. They talk on their phones. They throw things at the actors. They leap to their feet with applause. They use their camera phones to take pictures. They spontaneously clap in the middle of a show. They are entirely unpredictable.

At their worst, I wish the from my post in the tech booth I had a paintball gun or watergun and the opportunity to take out the worst offenders (especially those that not only let their phones ring, but then proceed to answer them).

But at their best they make ME want to burst out in spontaneous applause.

Following tonight's performance of Jesus, My Boy we had a talk back. We do it once in the run of every show (and sometimes more often if the show has a more controversial subject matter), and we tend to get a really good turn out. Tonight about half of the audience stayed, and since we had a full house that means that one side of the theatre was full for the talk back.

Now I don't know if any of you have experience with theatre talk backs, but they tend to be pretty much the same every time. People mention how much they loved the show and then they ask the actors "How did you learn all those lines!" Sometimes they go further, but often you really have to prompt the audience to ask questions.

But tonight was different.

I don't know what it was about tonight, but the audience was extremely well educated about theatre and the questions just kept coming. I must have told them that I was only taking one more question four or five times. And the questions were smart:

Q: How did you guys integrate the music with the script? Did you just decided or did you figure it out as you went?

A: Artistic Director Ron Reed had the idea to add music to the script about three years ago and when director Sarah Rodgers signed on to do the show, Ron handed her the script and Sheree & Jeremy's CDs. She listened to them and read the script and sent them an e-mail with the songs she thought would work and where she thought they might go. On the first day of rehearsal at our first read Sheree & Jeremy played the songs in those places and most of them are in the same place (moved by a paragraph or so). But the process was organic - more songs were added (including a little Beatles!), tweaked, & one was even written especially for the show (though it moved around within the script three or four times).

Q: The title of the show is Jesus, My Boy, but you never refer to the child as Jesus or the mother as Mary: you just call them "the boy" and "the boy's mother." Do you know why that is?

A: I directed the audience member to take a look at a letter we received from the playwright, John Dowie, that was included at the back of the program which talks about the fact that the play has gone through a variety of names including "The Joseph Story" & most of the time goes by "The Gospel According to Joseph". And one of the reasons for that is by not naming "Mary" or "Jesus" it allows Joseph's story to be the story of one of a number of men at that time, who work as carpenters, & wonder whether or not those prophecies might have pointed to them. At the same time, as David pointed out, it brings even more wonder to the reality of the story of Jesus & this Joseph regardless of one's religious views.

Q:How do you find acting with the audience so close to you?

A (from David Adams): A play cannot happen without an audience, especially in a space like Pacific Theatre where the audience is so close. That's what makes theatre so special - every show is different based on how the audience responds. We are all breathing the same air together and it is a pleasure to do the show with a new audience each night.

But when an audience is that attuned to what is happening, it is a pleasure for me to bring the show to them each night!

No comments: