Chris Hallam, 25 January 2015

The session was called to explore and debate themes I've been looking at recently;

the Audience as central to the creative process - how do we engage them, and are we

truly creating work for them. Also how we as Directors and Performers become


Main Topics discussed:

What is ‘Generosity’?

What or whom is the Audience - is it as simple as us/them in a truly collaborative


When should we think of the audience's needs in the creative process?

The place of Ego - a barrier to sharing

Immersive and Participatory Theatre.

How ‘assumptions’ affect our work.

The opening question was ‘what was meant by Generosity in this context?’ - to

elaborate, the thought was that we as Artists most often begin a creative process by

having an idea we want to produce rather than starting with the Audiences wants and

needs and keeping that central to the process, and also that our agenda, perhaps by

necessity (financial or career) is to produce work that the Industry will value or validate

rather than the audience. Generosity is whether we can take these considerations out

of the process. Also as performers, how generous are we to our fellow performers and

the audience?

There was a general feeling that generosity should be a very important factor in our

work - as soon as anyone steps on stage the audience should be the most important

thing. There was discussion on the need for flexibility of audiences needs and wants,

how it changes, for instance in touring, and adapting performances accordingly.

Keeping it live and vital.

The question was raised 'What or whom is the Audience? Is it dangerous to be

producing work for anyone? Should we not be talking about creating with the audience

if we're being truly collaborative? This raised discussion on where the Artist/Audience

relationship begins, ends, and merges. How rare it is to have the idea for work with the

audience. Can we not just produce art for arts sake; ie the work we want to do? A

point was put that anyone should produce whatever they wished, but if it's not created

with an audience in mind, there shouldn't be an expectation of there being an

audience for it, or blame when no-one attends. This led to talk on beginnings of

projects - Why is there an Audience for a piece. Again if we don't consider, is there a

danger of patronising the audience. We have to have openness and honesty about

why we want to create a piece and whom is it really for.

It was general consensus that the Audience should be ‘present’ from the kernal of an

idea - that we should ‘dream them in’ from the very beginning. A counter argument

was raised that shouldn't it be the content of a piece that attracts the audience?

Discussion as whether we can do both. We talked about how we get an Audience to

have an attitude -

Should we be looking at coercing or seducing the Audience? What are the ways or

tools we have to engage the audience - we talked about the rehearsal room and

where the audience factors in our process as Actors - a challenge was raised to

performers to question how often they are thinking about what they want the audience

to feel and what they need at a certain point, rather than what they (the artist)

themselves feel/portray/look like.

A lot of discussion centred on the Ego - of the Director, the Actor, The producer -

anyone who is ‘important’ in the process, and how this can be a real barrier to

audience engagement - our needs often outway that of the audience. We talked about

how often we are more concerned with our perception within the context of a piece -

‘am I good?’, ‘how does the industry view me/my work’. We talked about the

necessities of selling a show - having a viable product. How to please

programmers/venues and their perceived needs. Again, whether these are truly in the

Audiences interests. Discussion on who is most important, getting back to the basics,

the roots of Drama in Greek Theatre, and what we have lost particularly in a 21st

Century context - the truth that it is about telling stories, what we want the audience to

feel. We talked about letting go of the ego - finding ways to articulate the nature of

sharing in performance and constantly bring it back to that. It was raised that we see

being generous as ‘yielding’ and relinquishing status, being submissive - it is seen as

a negative. Formal training does not engender generosity, it centres on the self and

our processes and our own importance - yet there seems to be a step-change in

experienced performers looking for ways to get back to collaborative working. We

heard examples of companies working in this way - Secret Theatre (Lyric

Hammersmith), and the way in which the trust and network of support with performers

who have a long history of working together removes obstruction and allows the ego to

take a back seat. We also talked about the importance of vulnerability - how an

audience might need to see ‘risk’, a removal of the safety net, the smooth edges -

over-rehearsed ‘perfect’ performances can be deadly theatre.The strategy of being

close up - the ‘encounter’ is where the engagement happens

The question was raised about whether Immersive and Participatory Theatre is the

way forward for Audience engagement - some people thought that immersive is not for

everyone, and can be destructive or disengaging. General consensus that it should be

non-threatening. We shouldn't be scared to just entertain. We should gather thoughts

and oppinion rather than ‘force’ collaboration

We talked about the danger of assuming what an audience wants/needs - We also

shouldn't assume an audience is Passive - trusting them to be engaged. Don't assume

we are the same. Ask them, don't tell them. We talked about how engagement is often

seen as ‘intimacy’ - again how can we assume what is intimate for us is intimate for

the audience.

The conversation was left as open debate - a lot of consensus and agreement of ways

in which we can do more to centralise the Audience to our creative process.

I will be running a series of workshops exploring these ideas in Spring 2015 - if you

would be interested in participating, please contact me - Chris Hallam -

[email protected]


Audiences, Theatre, Industry, artists, audiences, Process, process, directors,

THEATRE, actors, Directors, Artists, Actors, industry, theatre