The Topography of an Audience pt 1

From the stage, it’s never boring figuring out what type of audience you‘re performing for.  Audiences are limitlessly fascinating.  They’re living organisms.  They may act as a whole, but like all multi-celled creatures, there are numerous independently operating parts.  Some of those parts can thrive, while others get infected, and die.  Often, surgery is necessary, though getting consent can be a bitch.

Theater professionals, for lack of a better term, are often heard debating audience profiles: the difference between a Friday and Saturday night crowd is a hot topic.  Some believe that Fridays are the best as people are excited to start their weekend.  They’re responsive and laugh-ready because workaholic New Yorkers more often than not, opt for liquid dinners, appearing at the theater well lubricated for an 8 o’clock curtain.

Those advocating for Saturdays will counter that Friday Nighters are exhausted from the week and not nearly as alert as the Saturday Nighters who’ve had a night’s rest and are amped for their one planned social event of the week.  But this can be a liability.  Expectations are higher, and having too much time to dine can lead to food comas– the one where the audience is as silent as an oil painting, only to tell you afterwards how they were laughing on the inside.

You can bank on an older crowd for Sunday matinees.  But for all the teasing our beloved Blue Hairs receive, they’re dedicated audiences.  The Common Air is contemporary.  There are obscure references to Grand Theft Auto and Lacanian language philosophy; cruder jokes about the gay nightlife in Mykonos and banging cocktail waitresses.  The Blue Hairs are with it all the way.  Just because they’re a little slower to enter, doesn’t mean their minds aren’t sharp as whips.  They are far more discerning than the young Obligators.

Obligators are those acquaintances that promised they’d come, and show up on a Sunday ‘cause they’d never waste a Friday or Saturday night in the theater.  They’re attention is at half.  They don’t turn off their phones, just silence them.  And they usually greet you with an email a week later, rather than a personal hello.  Their time is limited.  They’ve got other people to be superficial with.  But unlike the Bastard People, they showed up, and god bless’em.

The Bastard People are the most enthusiastic, most verbal, and most full of shit acquaintances that never show at all.  But in the build up to the run, they promise to bring multitudes with them.  Or their friend who’s really close with Tom Hanks.  A dead give that your very encouraging new acquaintance is actually is a Bastard Person, is the question, “How long is your run?” It’s one of those ways of saying, I want to know when it’s over, so I can prepare that many excuses for never coming to see your play.

Wednesdays and Thursday nights are reliably solid as expectations are lower for a night’s fulfillment, unlike Friday or Saturday when it better be good.  Tuesdays are consistently tasty, as anyone in a theater on a Tuesday is there because they want to be.  Most other nights you’ll likely find part of the audience coerced: “It’s Friday! Come with us even though you hate one-person shows!”

And sometimes, if they’re lucky, they actually do.


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