September 5, 2010

Fact #56: Shakespeare vs The Great Outdoors

Generally, when you do a show in a regular theater, here's what happens:

People come in. ---> They buy their tickets at the box office. ---> They sit down in chairs pointed directly at the stage. ---> The lights go out. ---> They watch the show.

Easy peasy.

When you do a show outside in a public park, here's what happens:

People wander up, possibly at the beginning of the show or possibly somewhere in the middle. ---> They set down their blankets/giant folding chairs, possibly facing you or possibly facing the exact opposite direction. ---> They sit, and possibly watch the show or possibly let their kids meander right into the scene you're doing.

It's intimidating trying to keep people's attention when you're competing with wind, sun, planes flying overhead, people flying kites, dog walkers, joggers, crying babies, the ant crawling up their leg, the egg salad they brought, etc. etc. . . etc. etc. . . etc. etc.

I found myself struggling with this a few times during the first performance. There's an impulse to push everything. To throw acting out the window, point your face in the general direction of the crowd and just yell. To pull faces, juggle, do magic tricks -- anything to keep the audience's attention.

But all that stuff won't keep their interest forever. If you're not playing the reality, if they don't have something to connect to, you'll lose them to that delicious egg salad (actually, I think egg salad is gross. . . maybe that's why it's distracting them, they're wondering why the hell they brought it).

It's a fine line. Big holds people's attention. But so does honest. This kind of theater relies on both. Either one, without the other, isn't enough.

And seriously, egg salad is super gross.


Til tomorrow!

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