Audience Contact Series: Asking a Question

Hello again, today we will be talking about the third form of audience contact which is asking the audience a question. This technique I find the easiest to use when in a traditional Shakespearean style theater. The question, included within the lines of the play, is addressed to an audience member sitting close by. This creates an interesting atmosphere within the theater as many actors will wait for that audience member to answer their question before they continue with the show. This adds additional humor to the piece as well as keeps the actors on their feet because they never know what an audience member will say. When I think of this technique, I think of a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that I saw a few years ago. When Helena finds Lysander lying on the forest floor she rushes over to him and says “Lysander, on the ground? Dead or asleep?” (line 73-74). In the show that I saw, the actress playing Helena directed the “Dead or asleep?” question to an audience member and did not continue until she got a response. This was one of the funniest parts of the show because we got to see an unsuspecting audience member paralyzed and not knowing what to do. It took awhile for the person to respond but when they did, the show continued as if nothing had happened. This scene really helped me understand the power of asking an audience member a question while performing. Next time, I will talk about the last form of audience contact. Until then, thanks for reading!

Audience Contact Series: Allying

Last week I introduced one of my favorite acting techniques, audience contact. This week I will move on from “Casting the Audience” to a different form that is called allying. The purpose of this technique is to convince the audience to be on your “side” during the play. Let’s think of Iago from Othello. Throughout the show, this character constantly addresses the audience with what he’s going to do next as well as why he is doing it. Audience members tend to support characters who ask for it, so Iago is the perfect example for this. If the actor can get a lot of time alone with the audience, he or she can convince the audience to be on their side. This creates a strong relationship between actor and audience as well as adds to the meaning of the performance overall. This short post is all for this week, next time I will go into another audience contact element. Thanks for reading.

Audience Contact Series: Casting the Audience

Hello all, today I am going to be talking about one of my favorite acting techniques that was most prominent in early productions of theater, when the technical aspect of performance had not been developed to what it is today. That technique is audience contact. There are many different forms of audience contact and they can all help develop a performance to feel more inclusive with the people you are performing for. The first form I’d like to talk about is casting the audience. When a character is delivering a piece to an audience, they often address unseen characters. This can leave the audience confused about the story and leave this selection missing something. Let’s think about the famous “Once more unto the breach” speech in Henry V. Here, King Henry is trying to motivate his army to attack again and not back down. Now, obviously we cannot have an entire army on a stage so an actor may make a choice to cast the audience as his army. Think about it, a theater full of people that are already listening to you can feel like subjects waiting for commands. This will also build a relationship with the audience, further engaging them in your performance. I know that for me, feeling like I am a part of a show I am watching can further my understanding of the text as well as bring me into the world of the text. Casting the audience does not always have to be casting the entire audience, you can use this technique with one or two audience members that you can easily identify. An example I saw in a workshop used a Merchant of Venice scene between characters Portia and Nerissa. In this selection, the two women are talking about unseen characters. Since the audience was never introduced to these characters, it can be hard for them to get the full effect of the text. That is where casting comes in. The actors could then potentially direct their descriptions to an unsuspecting audience member to give the rest of the audience a face of the character they are talking about. My next post will be about a different type of audience contact, as this is all I have time for right now. Thanks for reading.