Thursday, May 19, 2011

RE: Performance Log - All's Well That Ends Well (May 2011)

Stu writes:

For the most part, when performing indoors, in theater lighting, you can barely see the audience. Even when facing out towards the audience, you are generally looking over the heads of the people in the first few rows. I don't want to say that one is not aware of the audience, because you can also hear them and sense them in other ways, but it is much easier to focus on the actors on stage and, to some degree, disregard the audience. Indoor performance and lighting are the principal elements that create the "fourth wall" separating audience and actors.

Working outdoors, you are constantly aware of the audience right in front of you. When you look out, you are looking into people's faces! When I started working in outdoor theater, I found it intimidating that you could see people and their expressions. Initially I had to be careful not to focus on any individual. Now that I am more used to it, I don't hesitate to speak directly to the audience or even individual in it.

Personally, I enjoy doing outdoors because it allows you to connect with the audience. When I'm talking about children, or pretty girls, or bald men, I can take gesture or take the line to a child, a pretty girl, or a bald guy. There's a big difference when doing something like Shakespeare, which was written to be performed outdoors. Indoors, I see many actors doing soliloquies as thinking out loud to oneself. Outdoors, I encourage actors to take soliloquies or asides direct to members of the audience.

Doing something like Moliere allows you to break the fourth wall and involve members of the audience. One of my favorite memories was playing Harpagon in The Miser. As Jacques described what my neighbors thought of me, he pointed to a member of the audience as the source; it was hilarious: "One says that you have special almanacks printed, where you double the ember days and vigils, so that you may profit by the fasts to which you bind all your house; another, that you always have a ready-made quarrel for your servants at Christmas time or when they leave you, so that you may give them nothing. One tells a story how not long since you prosecuted a neighbour's cat because it had eaten up the remainder of a leg of mutton; another says that one night you were caught stealing your horses' oats..." Ultimately Jacques had to drag me back onstage to keep me from strangling one of the audience members.

-- Stu

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