Monday, April 13, 2009

Audiences should boo actors more often.

Doesn't relate strictly to theatre but this piece in the WSJ concerning Mary Zimmerman finally getting her fucking come-uppance from an audience at the Met starts a larger discussion, in my own head anyway, about actor's self perception and our often artificial relationships with audiences.

Why not boo?  I don't think there's a good argument for audiences not to.  The simple truth we all know is that at least some  of what happens on stage exists in a shadowy purgatory ranging from the merely ineffective to the puke-your-guts-up-bad.  So why shouldn't audiences feel freer to verbalize what we already know to be the case?  Must it really be that paying patrons should be expected to silently suffer our weaker efforts AND subsequently pretend like its actually not so bad, all in the name of theatre etiquette?   Too often I think its so.  How often do we sneer at the guy asleep in the front row or roll our eyes at the people who leave at intermission?   We know how often.  Conversely then how many times will we receive that "inappropriate behavior" as a clear  sign that maybe we just aren't doing a very good job?  Almost never, and that's a problem.

We're a too tender breed who too often think we deserve an audience's rapt attention and appropriate responses just because its hard being an actor.  I don't think that cuts it.  The crystallization of the polite response helps no one.   Not us, not the audience, and certainly not the cause of relevant theatre.  Yes it is hard tearing our guts out 8 times a week but we chose it and lots of things are hard.  The price of a ticket entitles one to an opinion and when they run to an extreme I think we have an artistic obligation not to dismiss the messenger.  In other words we should take the fucking note.

If you're at all like me you get goose bumps when you read or hear about the opening night curtain call for Waiting For Lefty.   The audience raised en masse and spontaneously yelled "STRIKE" back to the actors on-stage.  It seems to me that this kind of thing is the entire point but I think we make those real and spontaneous moments less likely if we expect the audience to cheerfully receive everything we do.

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