Friday, October 07, 2011

Tough Day at Work

I guess everyone has one of those days. You do your best and give it your all and it just doesn't seem to be enough. The crowd was a decent size for a Wednesday evening. In fact I thought they would be a really good audience. I have gotten great reactions from audiences half their size with this very show in this very theater, so I was not really concerned when I started. John tells me that I can't make a judgement on how the audience will react until after the first performance piece which is the Snake character. So, although I thought their reaction was a little stilted for the opening few minutes, I waited.
The snake routine came and went and there seemed to be no change in their attitude. I kept working them. At every turn of the story I thought I had figured them out. Their reactions proved me wrong, and it took me by surprise. I began to give up on ever finding them as the show rolled on. They were not restless nor distracting, they were just comatose. I could not get a reaction out of them if I delivered it in a Mac truck.
I have done this show for every possible type of audience. I didn't think there was a situation that I had not faced before. These people showed me that an audience is a crap shoot and you can never pigeon hole them. It was like they were in church. No one laughed no one reacted but they were watching and listening intently. Usually you can break through that "television attitude" and get them to respond in a live theatre, but I used every skill that I had ever learned and nothing was working.
The trick in this situation is to not let it get to you and not get vicious . In a club you can take out your frustrations on the audience and let them have it, and sometimes that works and they are brow beaten into submission. But you can't do that in a theatre setting when there is a thread to the story and it must follow a set of scripted cues. It was like trying to fight an opponent in the boxing ring with your feet nailed to the floor. I told John later I thought I was moving concrete blocks, everything took so much effort I wondered if I could go the distance.
Finally it was Darwin's turn. He is the least structured of all the bits and if I could ever go "club" on them this was the time. So I let him go. He bated and harassed the non-responsive as only a monkey can do and get away with it. Compared to the rest of the evening he did get them going, but just moving the bar from on the ground to up an inch was not the success I was hoping for. It was not a satisfying evening as it turned out. I was completely drained and weak. I had gone the distance but it had taken my all to do it.
Like I said, we have all had this experience and there is no insurance policy one can get to make certain it will never happen again. There will be another performance tomorrow night that has the potential of being a barn raiser.
John usually goes outside to have a smoke after the show and hears the comments of the audience as they leave. He said they were very impressed, happy and the comments on the evening were really good. You would think that they could have expressed those feelings to me in some way... a smile, a giggle, any sort of reaction a living body can make.
Oh well, I look at what I do as art and I guess the reaction to art is up to the observers. There is no standard response. They did their part, they observed without distraction. However, I wish I could let them know in some way that if they had participated just a little bit in the experience they might have enjoyed it exponentially, but that moment and that audience is gone and can never be repeated. And... I realize that this is what I love, the unknown response of a live audience. If it was always the same I would get very bored and find another venue for my talents that was not so predictable. I am a professional and sometimes you have a tough day at work.
As you were,


Anonymous said...

I guess we all have one of those days... My cousins were at your show and loved it. Are you bringing your show to the Philadelphia, PA area? There's a great theatre in Lancaster, PA - "American Music Theatre" - beautiful venue, holds about 1,600 people. Check 'em out. We'd love to see you in the mid-Atlantic region!

P. Grecian said...

Audiences like that always surprise a person by saying later how much they enjoyed the show.

Once I had a member of the sponsoring group come onstage about twenty minutes before a show to tell everyone to listen intently and not interrupt me by making any noise. That was a fun bunch to play to.

Hope I get to see T2AO sometime, Jay, I promise to make approving noises.

I can't imagine how I could possibly keep from it.

Anonymous said...

Just as a follow-up to my previous message - my cousins were not there last night... they were there last Sunday. :-)