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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: August ::
The Globes Audience in the Future
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1574  Tuesday, 24 August 2004

[1]     From:   Douglas Brooks <
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        Date:   Monday, 23 Aug 2004 07:46:23 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1563 The Globes Audience in the Future

[2]     From:   R. A. Cantrell <
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        Date:   Monday, 23 Aug 2004 08:33:26 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1563 The Globes Audience in the Future

[3]     From:   Scott Sharplin <
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        Date:   Monday, 23 Aug 2004 09:24:02 -0600 (MDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1563 The Globes Audience in the Future

[4]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Monday, 23 Aug 2004 12:35:58 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 15.1563 The Globes Audience in the Future

[5]     From:   Carey Upton <
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        Date:   Monday, 23 Aug 2004 10:28:25 -0700
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.1563 The Globes Audience in the Future

[6]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Monday, 23 Aug 2004 13:34:51 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.1563 The Globes Audience in the Future

[7]     From:   Susan St. John <
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        Date:   Monday, 23 Aug 2004 19:04:43 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1563 The Globes Audience in the Future


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Douglas Brooks <
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Date:           Monday, 23 Aug 2004 07:46:23 -0500
Subject: 15.1563 The Globes Audience in the Future
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1563 The Globes Audience in the Future

One of the biggest differences between an Elizabethan audience and
today's at the Globe is the smell: the majority of the audience
attending a production at the Globe now have bathed in the past day or
two, are wearing clothes that have been recently laundered, and probably
brushed their teeth on the morning of the performance.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           R. A. Cantrell <
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Date:           Monday, 23 Aug 2004 08:33:26 -0500
Subject: 15.1563 The Globes Audience in the Future
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1563 The Globes Audience in the Future

 >If our greatest playwright created plays that interacted with
 >his audience, why have we become so distant from Shakespeare's audience
 >interaction

Great portions of the audience know the plays and attend as 'students'
of the work. We come not simply to be entertained, but to see if the
play is 'done right,' as we'd like it.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scott Sharplin <
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Date:           Monday, 23 Aug 2004 09:24:02 -0600 (MDT)
Subject: 15.1563 The Globes Audience in the Future
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1563 The Globes Audience in the Future

re: audience preferences, then and now

While the tendency for an audience to "hide in the dark" was certainly
encouraged by cinema, I think it started earlier, with the rise of the
proscenium stage in the 19th century. There may also have developed a
separation between "upper-class" theatre, which was costly and dignified
and therefore should not involve interaction (with its attendant risk of
humiliation or exposure), and "lower-class" theatre (puppet shows etc.)
which could still demand audience participation. Whereas in
Shakespeare's time, there was no distinction, by the 20th century, the
"proletariat" medium of cinema had relegated most theatre to an
"upper-class" status, which meant sit quietly and soak in the culture.

Mind you, there are still many types of theatre which enjoy audience
involvement: dinner theatre, improv, Fringe theatre, and Shakespeare at
the New Globe. I think that generally, if an audience knows they're in
for something different, then they will be prepared to accept a new
dynamic with the actors. But I have seen attempts at audience
involvement in larger, "A-house" theatres and watched the audiences
freeze right up--This wasn't what they paid for!--and refuse to play along.

All in all, it would be great to see that paradigm shift back. Theatre
is much more lively, unpredictable, and vital when the audience allows
themselves to participate.

Scott Sharplin

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Monday, 23 Aug 2004 12:35:58 -0400
Subject: The Globes Audience in the Future
Comment:        SHK 15.1563 The Globes Audience in the Future

Kate Pearce asks, 'why have we become so distant from Shakespeare's
audience interaction?'

Not in Britain we haven't. Forget the appalling Globe.  Try
working-men's clubs, stand-up comedy acts, the pantomimes that hold huge
audiences in thrall from December to March, or the terraces at local
soccer or rugby matches. Didn't you ever hear of Marie Lloyd, George
Robey, Frankie Howerd, Sid Field, Max Miller, Ken Dodd?

T. Hawkes

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carey Upton <
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Date:           Monday, 23 Aug 2004 10:28:25 -0700
Subject: 15.1563 The Globes Audience in the Future
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.1563 The Globes Audience in the Future

Shakespeare and his fellow players knew that theatre lived in the
actor-audience connection.  This is evidenced by the very structures
they built for playing, the Globe and the BlackFriars.  Both playhouses
put the actor in direct relationship with the audience.  Our
reconstructions of these theaters in London and Staunton, Virginia
present us with experience. Standing on these stages and watching plays
in these theaters profoundly shifted my understanding of playing
Shakespeare. While I had always accepted the idea that Elizabethan
actors engaged the audience, these playhouses overwhelmingly confirmed
the vitality and fun in a direct actor-audience relationship.

Turning off the lights, building a fourth wall, and disconnecting the
actor-audience relationship have taken theatre away from one of its
unique sources of power. Even as theatre's hundred year exploration into
Realism has given us numerous benefits, we have given up a vital part of
what makes theatre unique.  As the new century turns, perhaps we can
explore returning this element to the playing of Shakespeare and all
theatre.

Audiences feel more engaged and entertained at the Globe, the
BlackFriars and other theatres where they pursue an active
actor-audience relationship. For theatre to thrive in the 21st century,
it needs to return this element that made Shakespeare's theatre
successful: actors creating a play in direct relationship with an audience.

Carey Upton
WAGING THEATRE

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[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Monday, 23 Aug 2004 13:34:51 -0500
Subject: 15.1563 The Globes Audience in the Future
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.1563 The Globes Audience in the Future

Kate Pearce asks

 >"[D]o today's audience prefer to be
 >secluded from the actor and his tale, or prefer to be included? We are
 >an audience that seems to sit in the dark (in cinema and theatre) and be
 >entertained by untouchable, limelight actors. Watching the response of
 >the audience at The Globe it made me question if we should take a leaf
 >out its books and break down the audience/actor barrier, or do we prefer
 >to watch the performer from a distance, making the actor a distant
 >illusion? If our greatest playwright created plays that interacted with
 >his audience, why have we become so distant from Shakespeare's audience
 >interaction?"

I don't think we necessarily have become so distant. Leaving aside
cinema (a very different artistic medium), a great deal of theatrical
experiment of the past century consisted of breaking down this barrier.
  Now it is not particularly experimental but just one possibility among
many.

In a technical sense, however, interaction with the audience creates
special burdens for the actors. Either they have to react as the
characters would, which breaks the continuity of the play, or they have
to drop the character and react as themselves, which breaks the
continuity of both play and character. Restoring the progress of the
play becomes that much more difficult.

Audience interaction is really in the purview of entertainment rather
than drama, and many talented actors are not especially good
entertainers. Even those that have some gifts in that direction
frequently need training and experience to provide interaction without
losing the play.

In the long run the most important thing in any production is the skill
of the actors in grasping and portraying the characters. Directors who
want to do interactive versions must find actors who can handle it, and
then lead them into making that kind of production work. The difficulty
of interactive production causes many directors to stick with the old
Fourth Wall approach, but these latter aren't innately better or worse
-- just less tricky.

Cheers,
don

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Susan St. John <
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Date:           Monday, 23 Aug 2004 19:04:43 -0700
Subject: 15.1563 The Globes Audience in the Future
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1563 The Globes Audience in the Future

Kate, I can only share my personal experience in a high school setting:
  We have an enormous auditorium (seats 1300) and a large stage (45'
deep x 65' wide) that creates a great chasm between actors and audience.
  We usually use this setting because it is what we have.  The audience
is remote and distant and it is difficult for the actors to feel their
responses. Especially since we never come close to filling the place up.

Last year we decided to create an intimate performance space for
Moliere's "Would-Be Gentleman" by placing both the set AND the audience
on our stage.  We built an entire interior box set on stage right
(facing toward center, complete with a false proscenium); and we built
platforms on stage left, facing stage right, which accommodated about 65
seats.  The front row of actors were practically in the Jourdain's
household!

I gave a curtain speech to remind the audience how much any noise would
distract the actors.  It worked beautifully...the actors LOVED having
the audience so close...they had to be extra focused and 'in character'
and they could hear every giggle.  And the audience didn't miss a word,
even from the inexperienced, too-quiet beginning actors.

I know there are some audience members who prefer the dark, anonymous
distance from the cathartic nature of theatre, but I think it is
imperative to get them 'up close and personal' whenever possible!

For this year's production ("Two Gentlemen of Verona") I am building a
raked platform that juts right out into the audience space like a thrust
stage.  I think I will block off the back sections of seats so that no
one is allowed to sit too far away!

Susan St. John

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