Why does one come to the theater if one does not want to watch the play? Case in point: The Woman in Black sold out performance last night. I directed the show and have been to just about every performance, so I tend to watch the audience as well as the play. It is a thriller with many technical aspects that all need to be spot-on every night, so I watch how it is all played out and how it is all received by the audience. So, Sunday night being a sold out show, I lingered on the sidelines so that those who paid for a ticket got a seat. I had the perfect view and it was the perfect audience. Almost.
Perhaps I should explain "perfect audience." Have you ever been an observer of art with a whole room full of strangers with whom you collectively took the journey with the artist — as one? Ever been at a performance where you needed to see that exact thing at that exact time in your life? Ever been inspired collectively with the person sitting next to you, without talking to each other? It is not a type of audience, per se, but rather the right combination for the particular experience at hand.
Conversely, as a performer or fellow audience member sitting in your vicinity, if you've had a bad day at work and can't shake it off, we feel it. If you had too much to drink at happy hour before you got to the theater, we feel it. If you are waiting for that voice mail or text message and want intermission to get here so you can check it, we feel it. Or, in the case of last night's performance, if you did not come to the theater to watch a play, we feel it.
Sunday's play was 98 percent the perfect audience.