Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Audience Participation, Cont'd

Anne Nicholson Weber responded to my post at The New Colony about audience participation by suggesting I listen to another of her excellent interviews, this one with two members of 500 Clown. Money quote: “Oh, what I’m doing in the room matters.” This realization is, as it should be, the goal of the honest brand of audience participation employed by 500 Clown.

It really sounds great, and I’m sad I’ll have to wait until June to see them, though I’ve seen similar performances to what they describe. What I like about their conception of “audience participation” in their own performances is that it is utterly organic. A person sneezes and the show can stop and acknowledge that. People walk in late and that is a concrete fact to confront — this matters, and this is a kind of performative realism (separate from that theatrical realism) that is the part of the experience of live theater that we too often struggle to sweep under the rug in service of some silly trap we’ve built for ourselves. The fourth wall is a lie. I’m sorry.

Bonus Points: Also brought up in the interview is what an excellent example of “the clown” Stephen Colbert offered at his now infamous speech for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. The best part of this is near the beginning when he looks right at the president and says “We both go from the gut. Right, Sir? That’s where the truth lies.” If only we could all remember the danger and the thrill and the guts of this confrontation in every production of King Lear for the next twenty years.

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