As always, read the whole post Why They Don’t Come Back (yes, on audiences and theatre) from a newly-discovered US-based blogger. This is a snippet that resonates with me right now.
I think it’s in our interest to be a lot harder on theatre-making. How many of your friends are working on a bad show right now? Why are we surprised when the audience is made up of mostly actors’ friends? Why do we profusely thank the audience for coming? Why does everyone compliment each other on a lackluster show?
Enough with the pity party/circle jerk. Either try to blow the audience away, or don’t bother. Be harder on your friends. Save your glowing praise for work that deserves it. It’ll bolster quality overall, and theatre will gain credibility amongst the unwashed mashes, whose dollars we desperately need.
‘unwashed mashes’ …. the mind boggles!
Theatre is a cruel mistress sometimes, and never more so than when she breaks up a tight-knit ensemble at the final curtain. Many (like me) deal with this psychic termination, the ending of a beautiful relationship by treating fond farewells as lightly as possible … ‘No goodbyes … see you around.’ It’s easier that way. And so it was this evening as the last performance of Cabaret at the Empire Theatre finished the season.
It’s been a quite wonderful time for me personally, and I’d wager for the entire company. We gathered post-show to formally farewell the ensemble in the studio, the site of rehearsals and warmups and that first meet and greet 10 weeks ago. There is no doubt that this production was a success artistically; it was a fine production shaped by the chief creatives: director Lewis Jones, designer Greg Clarke, musical director Lorraine Fuller, and choreographer Alison Valette. As important as financial and artistic success however, was the opportunity the production gave to nurture and further the talents and aspirations of the young men and women who worked backstage, onstage and in the orchestra pit. This is where organisations like the Empire Theatre are worth their weight in gold; they are helping to build the city’s and the country’s cultural capital, and readying the next generation for leadership in the arts community.
The final performance was a matinee, and it was a joyous occasion on several levels. For us, it had the edge of our wanting to make it the best it could be for us and for our audience. Some audience members returned to experience the show for the final time, and were joined by many first timers, but as always, they bonded to became that unique living organism known as the audience. Ask any theatre actor and they’ll confirm that no two audiences are alike. Today’s were warm, responsive, and not afraid to let us know it. I felt a thrill when I heard a ‘wow’ at the end of my final song. An audience feels a good show in unison and the actors feel it in return. Our audience this afternoon sent us out in style. The rest of the formal disbanding is happening as I write … an after-party which I fore-went. I like to keep my memories … of the faces, the experience within the confines of the theatre space. But we’re scattered now.
So it’s time to pack up the program and clippings, the cards, to swap images on Flickr, to bask in the memories, maybe plan for next time but just get on with the other things we do in life.
Auf wiedersehen, a bientot, goodbye …
Tonight clicked. There’s an old theatre furphy about second night being less good than opening night … or at least they can leave the actor feeling a bit ‘off’ and thus the performance is less good. I’m here to tell you that our second night was better than the first. The acting ensemble are firing, and the crew are like a well-oiled machine. There continues to be a great joyousness about working on this production. Without sounding too precious, we really do care about what the play has to say and about the performance challenges we’ve set ourselves.
And tonight was the opening night I wish I’d had last night. I woke this morning with an almost totally recovered voice. God knows how and why this happened; all I know is that almost before my eyes opened this morning, I tried out my range … humming up and down a couple of times. It was back. So tonight with a renewed confidence I feel I hit my straps. I was no longer a beat behind myself, constantly monitoring everything to ensure my wobbly voice didn’t wreck the songs or the dialogue. Tonight it was in the moment time in the most satisfying way.
And the audience? It was a Friday night. I have had a theory about Friday night theatre audiences for years. They’re relaxed, the working week is over and there is the promise of an entire weekend ahead; they’re ready and willing to enjoy themselves. And they did tonight. Up there on stage you listen for audience reaction … laughter, other non-verbal indicators of approval … applause of course, but also rapt silence … this latter is one of the most powerful indicators of focussed attention. We had the lot tonight. God bless Fridays say I!