Thursday, March 14, 2013

Leaving in the middle of a show

Another discussion that can come out of the Free Belarus Theater performance I talked about last week is the idea of leaving in the middle of a performance. The content of the Free Belarus Theater's play was not for everyone; there was violence and highly sexual themes. For those in the know, there was a level of tension looking around the audience before the show began wondering if everyone there knew what they were in for.

Luckily about ten minutes into the performance a couple people decided that this show was not for them, stood up, and left the theater. Now this was no small feat because they were sitting in the third row and the only path out of the theater was to go down the stairs and across the front of the stage. Not only did everyone in the theater leave, but the actors saw them go as well.

This, however, was the best thing that could have happened. Now it was established that it was ok to walk out. They had given permission to everyone in that theater to leave if they didn't like what they saw.

Everyone else stayed to the end of the performance. But the amazing thing is there was a very palpable sense of everyone relaxing in their seats after the couple had left. It was now a choice to stay to the end of the show. No once was being held captive after the permission had been granted to leave. Everyone was there because they wanted to be there and because they wanted to go on this journey.

Theater is a democracy. We work together to decide where any one performance goes. Non-participating audience members are always detrimental. Productions that are staged in a way that communicates to an audience that the artists don't care what you take away from the production are hollow shows. The challenge is for both parties to give and take, feeding off each other, to create an experience that will resonate beyond the walls of the theater.

It is amazing what can be accomplished when the actors and audience are working together on the same story.

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