Tonight was almost a sold out performance, and it got me thinking about comedy, energy and emotion. A couple of days ago, I made a rather offhand comment – “I love playing with people’s emotions” which sounds evil, except for the fact that when you look at it technically, that’s my job. As an artist, my job is to allow an audience to feel what they want to feel. Before they can do that, though, they have to know what they’re “supposed” to feel. What I love about theatre is that it shows our most basic human reactions. Such as laughing and smiling. A psychological reaction (try it), if someone smiles at you, you need to smile back, even if it’s not noticeable, in order for the brain to register the fact that they smiled. If you’ve ever listened to conversations in a language other than your own, you’ll understand what I mean when I say a joke has a sound. There’s a particular inflection we as humans use when whatever we’re saying is supposed to be funny. A sense of anticipation, longing, before a punchline.
And sometimes punchlines aren’t verbal. Sometimes they’re physical. Sometimes they’re really very subtle. But as humans, we can all read them. It makes me wonder about life through the eyes of someone with autism, when it can be harder to read emotions in people, or understand the complexities of inflection and pitch and tone.
All of this came to me as a response to the audience that joined us tonight. As I said, it was a very busy household, and what always intrigues me is how an audience knows that what we’re saying is a joke, or serious, or that they’re supposed to react in a certain way. Having said that they are being led to react in a certain way, they could react in the opposite way, and that’s incredibly interesting in its own right. What I meant by comment stated earlier was that I love to see people react. I love a snort of surprise, or the huff of insult, or the honk of horniness (yeah, ok, that’s enough). And that’s what makes it all worthwhile for me. Because when they leave, they’ve been thinking. I know they’ve been thinking because they’ve been responding. And that’s what’s amazing about “How to lose sight”. Michal’s managed to very carefully pick at the strings of what makes theatre theatre and put together a performance that everyone can take something away from, whether it’s a sense of relief after being in a claustrophobic house, the sense of watching a movie, the sense of adoration or dreaming or collaboration or togetherness. The house is the forgotten star of the show, and while people may think the piece wouldn’t be as interesting or intriguing if it weren’t in a house, isn’t that the point? It WOULDN’T be as interesting if it weren’t in a house. We know that! Explore the idea with us that everything that exists is a performance, from the moment Pollyanna and Barton meet you at the theatre, from the moment you leave your house, the clothes you wear, the scent you put on your skin, the way you shaved that day – they’re all part of this performance. Aren’t they?
So if that’s the case, everything we say that’s funny – all the jokes, the tenderness, the soulfulness, all the moments – stemmed from you. From what you did in the lead up. Because none of the show would have been any good without audience participation, and I’m not a huge fan of performing for myself. NO. Theatre is for sharing. It’s not, and should not be exclusive. If it’s exclusive, it should be… something else. I can’t even say art. It shouldn’t be art. It can be Art. Art for art’s sake. And it can go somewhere else. I create for other people to react to. Acting is reacting. That’s what I was taught when I was ten. Acting is merely someone on stage that is reacting to something else on stage – be it temperature, emotions that were left behind, emotions that are there, an audience and what they brought with them, something the someone brought onstage with them…the list is endless. What is there not to react to?
On top of all that, it was wonderful to have a woman tell me she honestly believed I was blind.
What a day.