To The Audience

flyloftFor the better part of 2 decades, I’ve been volunteering once a year or so for the Calumet Players. Annually, the players put on a couple of shows at the historic Calumet Theater in Calumet, MI. I usually work the musicals, and almost always work in the flyloft. In this theater, the flyloft is located 30′ above the stage floor on a deck that is about 8′ wide and 20′ long. The working part of the loft is the pinrail, where belaying pins sit in holes in long rails, and ropes are wrapped around them. These ropes hold up the pipes from which the set drops hang. The flyloft crew is responsible for raising and lowering the drops at the cue of the stage manager, and doing it safely.

I’ve never been attracted to performing on stage. My enjoyment has always come from supporting the actors from backstage. I like the flyloft because my crew and I have it pretty much to ourselves up there, and can spend down times reading. We can even talk quietly.

Over the years, I’ve observed a lot of plays from 30 feet up, and have also observed a lot of audiences. If I could speak to the audiences, I’d say something like this:

First of all, thank-you for coming to the theater. Our modern lives give us a lot of opportunities for entertainment, and the fact that you spent an evening and some of your money to attend is flattering to us all. These productions are community theater, which means no one (that I know of) gets paid anything. Just let that sink in for a minute. Particularly the director and cast spend months of evenings and weekends working on these plays. They fit all this rehearsing into their already busy lives. In my experience, very few people are naturally good at this kind of thing. The performance you see on stage is the result of a LOT of hard work.

Besides the actors, various people take charge of costumes, the program, the music (both the singers and orchestra) management of the stage, set construction, light design and light booth operation, sound design and operation, and so on. The purpose is to create a world on the little stage that tells you a story, and that removes you briefly from your regular world. The purpose is to give you a perspective on life that might have eluded you until tonight. And perhaps you’ll leave the theater at the end of the performance humming a tune that will stay stuck in your head for a while.

Since we are so used to consuming our entertainment via a video screen, some of us are a bit rusty when it comes to interacting with a live performance. The next thing I have to say might surprise you, but I’m firmly convinced it is true. THE MORE YOU ENJOY THE PERFORMANCE, THE BETTER THE PERFORMANCE WILL BE.

As I said earlier, I’ve observed a lot of audiences over the years, both from in the audience, and from behind (and above) the stage. Some audiences have more trouble getting going than others. Folks seem shy about being the first one to laugh at a joke, or clap at the end of a song. We are reluctant to look silly in front of our peers, so we often just sit there. Here is my request to you. Be the person that claps first, even if you do it in error. Be the person that laughs out loud at something that is supposed to be funny. I promise you the actor/singer up on stage will hear you. And so will the people around you in the audience. Everyone will relax a little when the desired response is elicited from someone in the audience. And the next joke might just attract some other brave soul to laugh. We all know that laughter is infectious. And the more you respond, the better the actors will feel about their performance, and the better performance you’ll get from them. Guaranteed.

4 Responses to “To The Audience”

  1. Mike Quello says:

    I miss being stage. I am usually the first to clap. Will continue !!!

  2. Sandy Lewin says:

    Amen Ted!!

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