Remember the audience

by Erica Bennett

I haven’t finished reading a book for pleasure in a long, long time, and I admit to losing grammar and vocabulary. Of course, I research point-of-need requests, whether they be a new play or work-related, and am up on current events and my professional literature.

I always feel a sense of victory when I find relevant “stuff” and make new connections to material. But somehow, I fell out of love with reading. Could be part bad eyesight and lack of attention span, and with that I realize I have become a judgmental audience, whether it be at the theatre or reading a new piece of literature.

Even so, I jumped in wholeheartedly with the playwright/director whose new work I witnessed last weekend. Two amazing performances and a challenging text; I was there for all of it, hooked. I lost myself in it, through the amazing and redundant parts. And then, towards the end, the playwright/director wrote several speeches and had the actor wag her finger at the audience in judgment. And, I overreacted by getting angry.

I am educated, interested in the world around me, and as a playwright, study people and their behavior. It was clear to me why the character in last weekend’s play behaved the way she did, but to be judged by a playwright as being too ignorant to know made me wonder, who exactly is our audience today? I know… My friends and family, and the actors’ friends and family attend my events. But, does the general public? And are they ignorant? No, I don’t think so.

I fell in love with books when I remembered my grade school teachers reading Where the Red Fern Grows, Bridge to Terabithia, Mrs. Fisby and the Rats of NIMH to us after lunch. I’ve decided to initiate a Storytime program at work, reading literature to students who might want to take a break from studying during finals. (Apparently, there is a study that shows that the brain releases Dopamine and the listener experiences pleasure when being read to, and is positively motivated.) But, what can I do to bring in a busy, over-stimulated, stressed-out audience to see my plays? I’ve decided it’s by entertaining them.

A convergence of events led me to write the first draft of a comedy last month. Ironically, and for the first time, one of my plays is getting tons of immediate attention. While entertaining doesn’t necessarily equal funny, I realized, I do need to stop judging my audience and start loving them. I need to remember the audience, and more importantly, remember they come first.

2 Comments

  • By Cynthia, November 20, 2014 @ 11:09 am

    I so appreciated this post – I’ve been to a few readings where I get so invested/inspired by the writing, and then get slapped down by the wagging finger speech at the end of it. I went to a reading last night where the playwright used the “F” word over and over and over again in the 90 minute script. I see that as such lazy writing (Mamet! Pinter! Steampunk!) and I got really annoyed by the 200th time I had to listen to the “F” bomb being used instead of real language. And yes, I’m with you on the writing is for the audience. Thank you for sharing this post!

  • By ehbennett, November 20, 2014 @ 9:51 pm

    Thank you for participating in my post, Cynthia! I love it when I experience an unexpected epiphany, too!

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