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Student Blog: Living, Breathing, Laughing

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Theatre can be representative and full of teachings, but it is useless if there is no one there to receive it.

The theatre has been robbed of familiar sounds: the shuffling of patrons, the low rumble of half whispered conversation, squeaking chairs, and preshow music. These sounds are little cues that a story is about to come to life, and they've been missing. After so many months of complete uncertainty and waiting, a show opening did not mean cameras going live, but the house doors opening. My school opened this season with a production of Blithe Spirit by Noël Coward and, very fortunately, an audience. The crowds of people brought back an energy that our space has been craving.

Student Blog: Living, Breathing, Laughing
We welcomed audiences back with a chaotic, ghostly,
story, which was nothing less than silly. Audiences laughed
at dueling wives, where one couldn't even see the other.
(PC: Nour Lotfy)

This summer, I was reminded of how precious the experience of sitting in an audience is. I visited a repertory theatre in Colorado and was blessed with live theatre. Vaccinated and masked, I wept all through the opening number. Seeing people live on stage touching hands and embracing overwhelmed me with emotion. We have all been so deprived of a connection found only in a theatre, and meeting it again was heartwarming. I watched a couple seated in front of me laugh harder than I've ever seen before. People respected the strict mask policy because they understood the gravity of theatre's return, and did not question any measures taken to keep the cast and crew safe. Every person in that room, for at least those two hours, was committed to preserving and protecting a sacred experience. This joyous evening revealed how tightly the art form can bond even a group of random strangers.

After seeing live theatre again, I was itching to be creating it. The opening fall play at my college fed my soul more than I could have ever imagined. I stood just out of sight backstage and listened to sounds that were once so mundane, but now are so heavenly. Prepared to step into the life of Ruth Condomine, I took a moment to relish in the fact that I was about to be witnessed by an audience I could hear. My focus was heightened, which brought an edge to my performance I had lost during the streaming era of COVID performances. I felt so invested and alive. Nerves bubbled through my body, keeping me right on my toes. The communication held between actors and the audience is so valuable. They may not be talking or throwing oranges at us, like audiences did once long ago, but they are bringing spirit into the space with their giggles and gasps. We all know how difficult it is to talk to someone who responds as much as a brick wall does, therefore we all know how vital an audience is to this art form.

Student Blog: Living, Breathing, Laughing
Due to the rising number of vaccinated individuals, we
found it safe enough to block without being socially
distanced. This immediately brought more connection
between the cast members. (PC: Nour Lotfy)

My peers and I felt the influence of an audience as we felt the difference in receptiveness. Some nights the audience was supportive, yet quiet. Our performances these nights were still elevated from our streamed shows, but it was more difficult to maintain a strong energy throughout the wordy, farcical, three act play. Other nights the audience was electric, laughing at every little line or nuanced movement. One performance, Zachary Covell, who played Charles, brushed past a vase and knocked all the props off the table. It spurred a brief section of improvisation as we attempted to fuss with the props and get back on track. The audience roared with laughter, pushing us all to nearly breaking. This colored the rest of our lines and sent us through the rest of the show with a burst of energy. Zachary said that he was happy to perform in front of an audience again, especially with audiences of this enthusiasm. He said it made him let go and explore things a professor has been teaching us. I found myself connecting to character more deeply and quickly. I felt that what I was communicating was actually reaching someone.

Student Blog: Living, Breathing, Laughing
To maintain the safety of the cast, we wore masks
all through rehearsals and the show. This, of course,
had its challenges, like pretending to drink martinis
through double layered fabric. (PC: Nour Lotfy)

Returning to live shows has only shown the connection that comes in the intimacy of a theatre. All kinds of stories are told on stage, each one resonating with different people for different reasons. Actors try to tell these stories authentically with deep commitment, but if there is no one there to communicate with a portion of the message gets lost. Without live audiences, the most incredible part of the art is muddled. Theatre can be representative and full of teachings, but it is useless if there is no one there to receive it. As safely as you possibly can, go and see live theatre. Be present and loud in both energy and applause. In a time as exhausting and difficult as this, connecting with others might be the most fulfilling thing you can do.


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From This Author Student Blogger: Madalyn Macko