On Audience Empathy – Rachael Murray, When We Grow Up

Okay. I have a confession to make: As an audience member, I don’t typically like ‘interactive theatre.’ Yes, you read that right. Perhaps I should explain: I don’t mean to ‘diss’ anything interactive I’ve seen before. Some of it has been interesting, and even enjoyable, but there are almost always moments where I’ve felt uncomfortable and put on-the-spot. I feel like my guard is up—I’m kind of shy. I usually just prefer the sitting-in-the-dark, safe-in-my-own-anonymity-approach. And yet, I currently find myself acting in an ‘interactive’ show (“When We Grow Up”).

Rachael Face

In rehearsals, we’ve spent a lot of time focusing on the audience’s experience: How might they feel in certain situations in the show? How can we guide the focus to put them at ease, and give them space and freedom to express their ideas? How do we keep from making them too comfortable? How do we facilitate certain parts of the show with them in mind? How do we keep them from feeling that they need to be “on guard”?

All this audience talk has gotten me thinking about the more standard fare I am used to, beyond the role of audience member. In addition to being a performer, I am also a director and producer. It’s got me thinking about how I approach work in these positions in a more traditional play. Do I think of the audience enough? Do I really treat them as an integral part of the experience? Or do I just leave them in the dark? One of the things I like most about working on a project that is a little different, is that it forces me to look at the work from a slightly different perspective.

I think WWGU will be the kind of interactive show that does make the audience comfortable, but not too comfortable. (I am starting to appreciate that element.) And I hope they start to look at things from a slightly different perspective, too.

Curious about the show? Buy tickets for the adventure of WHEN WE GROW UP here!

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