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.

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