Cool conference in SF made me wonder Pt. 1…

how many different ways the audience can participate in a performance beside simply being spectators. I was stunned that I couldn’t think of a single way that hasn’t already been done before.  Actually, I’m not really stunned.  I think I more than likely didn’t really try.

Now, it’s not that I don’t want to have ideas, but lately it seems that regardless of who it is that’s asking (my boss, the producer of H2$, and sometimes friends) when I offer ideas, they aren’t used or they are not what the person wants to hear or they aren’t interesting to the person asking for them.  So, I kind of just give half-assed suggestions.  If they want to know what I mean, let them ask.  Sometimes, I will just say something just to appear that I’ve tried to help.  In honesty, I’m not trying anymore.  I’d like that to NOT be the case, but how does one get around it?

The answer was simple.  Inspiration!

From L to R: Dante Di Loreto, Ben Cameron, and John Killacky the Panel Moderator

The Beyond Dynamic Adaptability conference in San Francisco on Monday was ah-mazing.  I got to not only see stunning, smart, and moving performances, but I got to network and learn about things that I’ve been wanting to understand.  The opening panel discussion was full of big wigs like Ben Cameron of the Doris Duke Foundation, Josephine Ramirez of the James Irvine Foundation, and Nina Simon of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art. The biggest wig by far though was the GLEE producer, Dante Di Loreto.  One of the things that stuck with me about his segment is that after an episode of GLEE airs, the internet is filled with fan videos that recreate the dance moves and feature people lipsyncing to the songs.  Instead of pulling the videos for copyright issues, he actually embraced it.  In doing so, it’s allowed the viewing audience to celebrate themselves with a show that allows so many people to identify with the characters.  It’s a whole different vibe than being a simple voyeur, just like being on stage is way different that sitting in the audience.  You are a part of the show in a sense.   The video that was shared was this fabulous clip:

Mr. D’s love and appreciation of these videos made me want to watch more of them.  I have to admit that I am not a fan of the show. I was turned off during the first season when it was the Finn and Rachel show featuring Mr. Shoe, or whatever his name is.  I do love that they cover all these great songs, but sometimes, there isn’t any possible way to do better than the original.  I was hoping that at some point they would begin to mix in original works as well, but I doubt that is going to happen.  I think it’s great that so many people love this show.  It’s done some good things for musical theatre so I can’t truly hate it, but the easily single episode-happy ending storylines were really bugging me.  Real high school isn’t like that at all.  It’s more soap opera-ish…but I’ll have to rant about that another time.

While I loved Mr. D.’s speech (I’ll have part of it in an upcoming podcast) I was so impressed by Nina Simon.  In six months, she took her museum from being in the hole to being at a positive $200,000! In six months!!  Her ideas are so simple and obvious that it only makes sense that she would achieve success. One of her thoughts was (I am paraphrasing) “we don’t know everything about all of our projects.  We enlist the help of the community to create our exhibits.  We ask the people, what would you like to know about this?” She then shows us a picture of a redwood board and two surf boards on display and in the center is a cluster of post-its with questions.  She also utilized empty spaces like the lobby and common areas for performances or hands on workshops. Those are just two of the examples, but I can’t wait to read her book “Museum 2.0.”

From L to R: Nina Simon and Josephine Ramirez

This leads me back to my original issue, how do you get the audience to become more than mere observers?  There are some places like the Gay Men’s Chorus that have social media opportunities given throughout their concerts.  The conductor will give the okay for the audience to hop onto Facebook or Twitter and let loose about what just happened.  Can you really do something like that with live theatre?  Something that’s being seen more often is “Tweet Seats” where there is a section reserved for people who are allowed to tweet about the show in real time and not having to wait for intermission to post something.  When WVLO Music Theatre produced “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” a few audience members every night got to take part in the Bee.  It was great to see them have such a good time, but you can’t do that with every audience member, now can you.  Well, I guess you could but that would make for a terribly long show!

So, my challenge is figuring this question out and doing it on a consistent basis because every project is a new challenge.

What are your thoughts on audience participation?  Is it okay with you to sit and watch?  Would the social media aspect bother you if you were sitting next to someone who was clicking away on their hand held device?  Leave a note in the comments section.

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