🎼Do You See What I See, Do You See What I See…🎶

Hello Dear Reader,

Happy All Of The Things! I hope however you celebrated with your families and friends, it was filled with joy, love, and kindness.

Last week, the family play I worked on had its final bow on Saturday. It was a fun run with a wonderful cast. Looking back, I can say there was a lesson in this production. And it was something I learned from the audience. It was a first for me.

I tried to get very comfortable in the skin of someone that was so unlike me. I mean, I have my little quirks, which could very well be undiagnosed OCD. I am not, however, self absorbed or oblivious to other people. I like to think that I did a decent job inhabiting that life though.

I am always looking for lessons to learn or what I could take away from each project. This time around, with this being the first time back on stage in 2 years, what will I learn, I wondered. 2 years is a long time to not put into practice what you know.

Now my Gentle Reader, you might be thinking “there are/were ways to participate with online performances.” To this, yes, I agree and I tried it. My experience doing an online or Zoom performance, while enjoyable in the meeting of people and working with them, was not as fulfilling as an in-person experience. I felt like I was expending way more energy just trying to maintain this sort of distanced connection with my cast mates. Not only that, I was never sure if I was reading my cast mates’ motivations properly because I couldn’t see their whole body, just whatever their head, neck and shoulders were telling me. It was draining. The people were great, but it was draining. I knew it wasn’t the thing for me. And that’s okay!

This time around, I learned that while I was getting comfy in Michael’s skin, I may have been getting a little careless with it too. As this was my very first time working on a thrust stage, (if you are unfamiliar, it is when the stage sticks out a bit and the audience sits on 3 sides instead of just one as in a traditional theater) I was hyper aware that my motions needed to be clear so no matter where one sat, my actions would be understood. This also means that at any given time, the actors on stage will have their backs to the audience at some point. Man, this was hard. It was an awesome challenge though.

Being comfortable with Michael’s mannerisms and actions were what brought he and I together. As long as I understood my motivations behind my actions, I could use those with everything on the stage if it felt right. And I did change what I interacted with… often! You know how they say the show can never be the same each night because of the various factors, like audience participation (their reactions), accidental (or intentional) walking pattern adjustment, forgotten words, costume malfunction, but mostly because of the first thing? I think I was to blame each night. 🙃

During the rehearsal process, as I mentioned in previous posts, I would always make adjustments based on how it felt. I could never recall exactly what I did because I was trying to simply stay in the moment. This meant that I didn’t have a defined track that is set and is always identical to the night before. There were points that I had to hit, but everything else was kind of fluid.

Early in the run, one of those points was called into question and after I reflected on it, I made an adjustment. There is a point in the show that Michael apologizes to his wife for accusing her of only coming back to him because she wants his money. Right after they reconcile, Michael says with hope of upcoming fatherhood and relief that Jill does love him, not his money, that he hopes they don’t have an “Uncle Bob” baby. Bob happens to be the alcoholic uncle who says inappropriate things. The line doesn’t feel like an announcement to the world but rather a secret hope between the couple. Well, I went with how it feels without thinking about the element of the thrust. This meant that the people behind me wouldn’t be able to clearly hear what I was saying. I actually heard someone ask what was said and it hit me that my intention and motivation may be appropriate but delivery needs to be adjusted so it can be heard by the audience clearly. So this point was adjusted and I made sure that I was louder and more clear with that line through the rest of the run. We didn’t have mics and it was a very intimate setting, meaning the audience was practically on the stage with us.

Later in the run, a great actor friend was in the audience and asked why I was pointing to my brother during a point when Uncle Bob says he has a confession for anyone who is keeping score of our contest. One of the reveals later in the show was that the brother was documenting the whole night. 🤭Oops sorry, SPOILERS! 😂! Well, my action is that I am actually pointing to Mom, but because of how I do it, sort of dismissively nonchalant which ends up looking like a hand imitating a fish out of water, the action was unclear. Also, dependent on where people sit, I will look like I am pointing to a different person on the stage. From that performance on, I made sure to keep the intention but to acknowledge Mom in a more focused manner.

So my Kind Reader, for this lesson, I learned that staying in the moment and understanding motivations and intentions are all important, but when audience perspective is shifted to almost all around you, clarity and focus in those things is even more useful to help deliver a more enjoyable performance for the audience.

As this posts, I shall be enjoying the final Sunday Brunch of the year. I eagerly look forward to the opportunities 2022 will bring and hope that you are too. That being said, until next time, Gentle Reader, I hope you are safe and alert and don’t forget to treat people with kindness. Including yourselves.


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.