Tuesday, January 24, 2017

It's All About The Audience

I recently joined my first Linked-In group. Speechwriters and Public Speaking Coaches (or something like that). The first post I read was from an Australian speechwriter who claimed that his people could speak at 125 words per minute, versus the usual 100 words per minute. Why? The larger our audiences, the more slowly we need to speak, and the fewer ideas we can expect them to absorb. But he didn't mention audience.

Nor has any other post, or comment, in the group mentioned audience. But what are we doing on stage if we're not communicating with our audience?

On Friday, inauguration day,  I participated in "Artists Unite! for Peace and Diversity." On stage, as part of Christina Soriano's IMPROVment participatory dance improvisation. An intergenerational, multi-ethnic group of us were to be models for the movement instructions Christina was giving the audience.

As could be expected, not everyone in the audience joined in with "Let your fingers be raindrops waking up your skin." But by the time she told us to "Let your right thumb dance with your left ankle," people throughout the theatre were laughing as they waved hands and feet. By the end of our allotted 15 minutes, every single one of us were shouting and stomping.

I had thought all my life that I couldn't dance. Reinforced in college when, after one rehearsal as a Flower Maiden in Parsifal, I was recast as a Page who was supposed to kneel (and NOT move) during Gurnemanz's long aria. And yet, there I was,  at 85, modeling dance improvisation before a couple of hundred people.

This dance project was obviously intended to involve the audience, but I've been dancing on stage for several months now. I've dared to do so is because I've learned that the intention of every performance—and every book, every painting, every play—has to be audience involvement.