Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Becoming the Audience

Flickr Credit: Brett Sayer
There is something about being in an audience that I love.

Maybe I’m watching Les Misérables, and falling in love with the story all over again. Maybe I’m watching my high school’s production of “Arsenic and Old Lace.” Maybe I’m sitting next to my dad at “The Importance of Being Earnest” and enjoying my time with him.

Here is the tally.

5 Musicals: Wicked (twice), Les Mis, The Addams Family, Jekyll and Hyde, and Evita

1 Play: “The Importance of Being Earnest”

5 High School Productions: Annie, “Strange Boarders,” Legally Blonde, “Arsenic and Old Lace,” Pirates of Penzance

1 College Production: My Fair Lady

And I’ve been in many other situations where I’m in the audience. Recitals, concerts, talent shows, church, classrooms, an interactive mystery performance, movie theaters. From them I’ve learned one thing.

Being in a live audience is AWESOME.

For the sake of brevity, we’ll use two of my favorites: The Addams Family and “The Importance of Being Earnest.”

Flickr Credit: Eva Rinaldi

What is awesome about The Addams Family is that the audience gets so involved. They put in jokes that everyone laughs at, and you are compelled to laugh along. You’re part of a bigger body. Whether you’re a pair of sisters out for an afternoon or a pair of strangers in Hawaiian shirts and cowboy hats (we played I Spy, and yes, three rows apart just below us, it actually happened) there are parts of the musical that almost bind you to the cast.

My favorite part, though, is at the beginning and the end, when they play the Addams Theme: dun-dun-dun-dun—SNAP SNAP! Everyone joins in. Like, everyone is helping add to the music. And if you’ve never snapped with a couple hundred other people at a musical, it is great fun.

Flickr Credit: Kurt Magoon

“Earnest” was a little different, because rather than the theater downtown it was the cultural center in the city over. You could see everyone’s face in the crowd, and because the theater was so small we strangers were more tightly bound. Again, Wilde’s attempt was to make us laugh, and the actors can milk that. They did.

And my favorite part was when Gwen’s mom forgot her lines and we just kept on going, because we were up-close-and-personal.

At Wicked we all said, “Oooooh,” during the cat fight, and laughed.

During Legally Blonde, the sexy UPS guy drew cheers from the audience as he looked on and smiled.

Even when we got stuck in line during the break at Les Mis, I found myself being part of a larger audience as I listened to opinions and ideas of productions that came before.

When you’re in an audience, you are one with the people around you. Their reactions incite your reactions, and their tears become yours. You act as a functional unit, almost, and even though you will never learn another person’s name and may very well go on oblivious to their existences, you are sharing emotions, thoughts, and feelings with these people as one, and that creates a greater connection, even if for a single moment, than any fangirling experience could give you on the Internet.

Yes, being in an audience is wonderful. It’s great to go with friends and to experience it as a group. And admittedly, one has to dream of a currently nonexistent boyfriend who might enjoy The Lion King or Fiddler on the Roof or “Othello” in equal measure.

But despite the familiarity, it is the parts that make the whole that make the audience special and unique.

What has been your favorite audience experience? (And, what productions would you love to see someday?)

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