I am currently working on a devised piece about the women affected by the infamous Henry VIII. Coming from a family that is not made up of theatregoers, I got a lot of blank stares and sympathetic nods of approval when I told them my casting for this quarter. After explaining this performance to my 93-year-old grandpa, he smiled and essentially asked if a devised piece meant there was no script, no words, and no direction. I guess he thought I would just be going on stage and hanging out for an hour and a half. I’m pretty certain that’s what the rest of my family thinks they are going to see in a month. It’s unfortunate that none of them are able to understand what I’m doing with my life right now. I guess that comes from my inability to fully explain it and the intangible nature of the theatre.
After reading an article from the Huffington Post, as well as a fellow classmate’s inspiring piece on this blog, I thought more deeply about what the process of creating theatre is, and what it means to introduce audience members into this development.
Though the Huffington Post piece focuses on the creation of an opera performance, I believe it can just as easily be applied to the theatre I am involved in. The world of the theatre is elusive. I have heard many people say they are afraid to even step into the College of Fine Arts because it’s so mysterious and a bit intimidating. But the same can be said as a theatre artist talking about the outside world.
It is a terrifying thought to welcome people into the rehearsal space. As George Heymont states in his Huffington Post article, the rehearsal space is somewhat sacred: “For many artists, a studio or rehearsal room represents a safe space in which one can experiment with ideas. It’s an arena in which things are neither right nor wrong, but potentially powerful solutions to an artistic challenge.” To have audience members see the possibly terrible choices we as actors make before opening night is a little embarrassing.
But I do believe it would be worth it. The amount of relatives, former classmates, and peers I have had ask me about my obscure “Theatre Arts” major leads me to believe that the general populace doesn’t really get what we’re doing. How wonderful would it be to live in a world where people finally understand our craft and thus are able to celebrate it rather than scratch their heads at it?
My classmates in the School of Theatre tend to understand the process of creating a performace. People who stay on the audience side of this discussion don’t necessarily understand that, so allowing people to see what goes on before opening night seems like the logical next step in the cultivation of a relationship between audience member and performer.