Wednesday, June 25, 2008

WC: The Problem With (Some) Audiences

The first time I saw Cabaret with Alan Cumming and Natasha Richardson, when the show ended, there was silence. Perhaps 30 seconds of silence, which is a long time sitting in a theatre. Silence. People were shocked and moved and not ready to applaud. It was one of my favorite moments EVER in a theatre--a moment when absolutely nothing was happening, and everything was happening.

In later viewings, audience whooped and hollered their way through the show, focusing on the painted nipples and tawdry sexuality and ignoring the creeping evil. They managed almost willfully to ignore what was going on in front of them. They didn't manage to ruin the show, but they sure hurt it.

Which brings me to an excellent quote I read today by Edward Albee:

"No two people see the same play," said Albee. "Some people bring a different intelligence to the play, a different life experience, a different aesthetic, and what's most important, there are some people who are willing to go to a play and have whatever experience the playwright wishes the audience to have. There are other people who come into the theater having pre-determined the kind of play they are willing to participate in, the kind of play they are willing to understand, and the kind of play they are willing to tolerate."

He really sums it up nicely, doesn't he? "The kind of play thay are willing to tolerate."

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