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Before the performance, which may be your first experience with live theatre, we encourage you to learn a little about the elements of the art and how they fit together. It will also help if you read a review or two, and perhaps learn a little about the playwright and the period in which the play takes place. This will enhance your understanding and enjoyment of the play. Exploring the Asolo website will provide a wealth of information to help start you on this path.
Although it may seem obvious, it is important to realize that theatre is a live event. The actors are right there in the same room with the audience, hearing, seeing, and responding to everything that is going on. Inexperienced theatre-goers may assume that the event is similar to television or a movie--that somehow the actors on stage exist in another reality from the audience. You may not be aware of the fact that the actors rely on the audience to help make the play come alive. In addition you have to stay focused on the action and words because there is no rewind button.
The audience feeds concentration, energy and support to the actors. In return, the actors give their own concentration, energy and trust to the audience. The relationship is like an electrical circuit: only when the flow of electricity is connected does the energy flow and the light go on. Contrast that experience with turning on the TV. What happens if you get up for a snack from the kitchen or you start talking to someone in the middle of the show? The TV show goes right on as if nothing has happened, because for the images on the screen, indeed nothing has happened!
Think about how you feel when you get up in front of the class to give a report, or sing in church, or play a game for cheering fans in the bleachers. This will help you identify with the way actors feel when they perform. Yes, even professional actors who perform for a living get nervous. The actors care about how the audience responds to them and the play.
Rather than stressing the Don'ts of audience behavior (don't talk, don't squirm, don't make noise), we urge you to enjoy the performance and give support to the actors. Here's what you need:
Theatre tells a story. Theatre has the power to move us emotionally. Theatre conveys ideas through images, sounds, movement and symbols, as well as words. It is okay to leave the theatre with questions about meaning, with perceptions and ideas that vary from those of your friends, with emotional connections that may have a unique personal impact.
Your responses will be different from others, because each person brings something special and personal to the theatre experience. There are no right or wrong responses. The philosopher and aesthetician Suzanne Langer states: "The whole qualification for participation in the arts is responsiveness." Your own positive anticipation before the play, coupled with your undivided attention during the play is the key to a rich theatre experience.
Adapted from METRO THEATRE COMPANY, St. Louis, Missouri