Creating the Magic of Theatre: The Audience

Creating the Magic of Theatre’ is a series that explores how the director, the actor and the audience all contribute to creating exciting & immersive pieces of theatre.

Theatre is an experience. When the lights dim and the play begins, the story unfolds before our eyes. Every effort by the actors, every detail from lighting to staging is all carefully crafted to ensure that the audience is engaged and invested in the story before them. When the line between the world of the play and the world we live in is blurred, it is something to be enjoyed.

Whether we realise it or not, the audience possess certain instruments that help to create a mesmerising or miserable show.

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1. The phone.

In this day and age, it can be hard to detach ourselves from our phones with such easy accessibility to social media, work updates and momentary fun. But the phone can be a major distraction not only for the user, but for the people around the user as well. The ringtone (if you didn’t turn your phone to silent), notification beeps and the glare of the phone screen distracts nearby audience members from the present action of the play.

Also, as an actor myself, I always notice the faint(or even jarring) ray of light beaming amongst a sea of faces in the audience. If you think the actors don’t notice or that they’d be too involved in the scene to; we do.

The thing about theatre is that there is a symbiotic relationship between actor and audience, an exchange of energy & feeling between the two. When the phone isn’t in the way, that connection is enhanced and makes for more interesting and energetic shows. (Actors are sensitive and want you to care).

So take the plunge: turn off your phone and get involved in the show.

2. The camera.

Every play is different, simply because it’s live. Every night is special in its own way. Some people just love to document their life. Perhaps others want to relive the night again and are just sentimental that way. By taking a picture or a video, we only end up seeing through the lens and we become detached in the space. A valuable opportunity to fully embrace the story of the play is taken away.

Cameras capture brief moments but they can never capture the experience. So live for the now and watch the show with your own eyes.

12369022_761280690671786_727962002488644667_nThe Story Machine at HCAC.

3. The voice.

Our voice is an instrument on its own often within our complete control.

But this doesn’t mean that making a sound is prohibited or ruins everything. As mentioned before, the actors feed off what the audience gives them, a factor that helps drive a show. In my own personal experience, an active & responsive audience is like free energy or adrenaline that I can absorb whenever I’m on stage. As an audience member, you have that freedom to respond as you like to a show and using your voice is a tool that influences the experience of a live theatre show.

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Metaphors Be With You at HCAC.

A silent audience at what is supposed to be a lively, comedic scene can end up bringing the energy down. A sudden chuckle during a tragic, despondent moment can suddenly be distracting & awkward for the actor and audience. Knowing when the right moment is to react vocally and the extent of your reaction also affects how engaging or immersive a show is.

4. Timing.

Time isn’t a thing that can be controlled but it is definitely something that we can manage. As audience members, we become wilful participants during the entire duration of a theatrical experience. As such, what we do with our time can impact the experience of a play for our fellow audience members.

When someone comes late trailing into the space, the audience becomes exposed to the fragments of the outside world. For one, the bright light that emanates from an open door can clash with the darkness of the theatre space. Footsteps and tripping feet conflict with the voices of the actors on stage. Coming in on time for a show contributes to a more complete & enjoyable show for everyone watching because the reminders of the world outside the theatre doors disappear.

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Creation of My Body at HCAC.

At the end of the day, nobody likes being policed. Everyone is entitled to their freedom to do as they please, especially in the theatre space. However, we need to recognise that even the audience has their own part to play in the theatre. Many of the actions the audience makes influences the efficacy of a scene. An audience that understands the power and responsibility they have over the course of a show means that, perhaps a more total & immersive experience in a theatre show will be instilled. And wouldn’t that be a magical thing?

Check out part 1 and part 2 of the Creating the Magic of Theatre series, The Director & Theatre-maker and The Actor!