The Fruits of Our Labor

PATRICIA VOIGT
FINE ARTS COLUMNIST

I love movies, listening to my iPod, admiring paintings, etc., but there is nothing quite like watching a live performance art. A ballet, a symphony orchestra, a solo artist performance, and of course the live theatre.

As an audience member, I am required to be totally engaged; I can’t space out and rewind. I must be totally in. But that’s on the performer to draw you in.

On that note, many people don’t know how much really goes in to that performance. One three-minute song probably had hours upon hours of work. Think of an image of a glacier, and notice how only a small portion of it is seen whereas most of its mass is below the surface. That is performance art in a nutshell.

Although sometimes we wish we could explain all that goes into a show, the hours of rehearsal in and outside the theatre: the directing, blocking, memorizing, building, designing, exploring, journaling, character development, etc…the truth is that at the same time, audience response is thanks enough.

In fact, I wonder if showing your average audience member every minute detail of work would detract from the image we have created and the story we are telling. Some, I’m sure, would grow in appreciation. However our goal is not to say “look at all of our blood, sweat, and tears,” but rather, “Come and see this story we want to show you.”

Something I have noticed in my past couple semesters is how crucial those first groups of audiences are, especially when you are performing a comedy. Why? Because you have been rehearsing and rehearsing without any average-joe feedback in the form of laughter. That can get disheartening at times. I know it’s funny, the whole cast and crew knows it’s funny…but does the audience?

I discovered how important that immediate in-show feedback was when I went to every tech run-through of “Twelfth Night” last semester. (I wasn’t in it, but had the joy of being choreographer-director.) I was cracking up the entire show!

But the cast had never heard laughter before, other than the occasional laughter from the director and stage manager. So after the first run, they were all telling me how much it lifted their spirits to hear someone laughing!

I personally now understand that for myself. I kind of got a glimpse of that when I performed in “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) (Revised)” this past summer. We did it all in a matter of five weeks, so there wasn’t much time to wonder if it was funny or not.

But now, we have been working on “Much Ado About Nothing” since the beginning of September and our first show is November 3…and, speaking for myself, I’m anxious. Not nervous, but excited. I can’t wait to hear that first burst of laughter from a theater full of people. That laughter (and possibly some gasps and tears) will solidify what we hope we already know: the show is great.

And hey, shameless promotion, you can be a part of that! As I said, there is something so pure and priceless about a live show. Be on the lookout for posters for information. Feel free to ask us too. We’ll probably be by the steps outside of the theatre doors under the large crucifix.

See you at the show!

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