Hey fellow theatre students:
Why do we spend so much time and effort into making theatre that nobody will see?
At least, nobody other than our classmates, fellow artists, who always see it…
How do we engage with new audiences?
Ones whose first impulse would not be to spend their Friday night going to the theatre or doing anything art related…
This Wednesday, the cast of “Femina Shakes” Romeo and Juliet performed a cut of our play for an audience of approximately 500 business students in Boston University’s School of Management. They are taking a class on organizational behavior, and part of their curriculum is to study our rehearsal process before we present the result of our work to them. What an interesting experience. After having closed our run at the College of Fine Arts, I was ready to move on from R + J, yet knew there was this one last event before tying a bow around our time in Verona.
The performance itself went well as we adjusted to the auditorium set up, and there was a talkback after in which members of the cast really hit some true and honest points about what we do in the theatre. SMG Professor John McCarthy said to his class something along the lines of, watching theatre teaches us what it means to be human. While I know this to be fundamentally true, many of the faces in the audience looked skeptical, bored, or even were only paying attention to the smartphone in their lap. As the talkback wrapped up and Professor McCarthy began some closing statements, much of the audience was already tuned out–packing their bags, putting on coats, eyes glued to their phones. The irony was thick, as one of my cast mates had just made a potent comment about awareness and being in the present. These people were already hours ahead of themselves, too distracted to devote their full attention to just a few more words.
It was in this moment that I was really struck by how much I need to continue sharing my work with this audience.
As many of us in the CFA are already aware, we make some really great theatre. Our actors are phenomenal, passionate human beings, and the stories we tell have potential to be so important. Our one flaw, however, is our lack of reach outside our own community. This being said, we hardly have enough audience room to fit ourselves, which is why this tradition we have with SMG is so important.
Why don’t we do this more often? Sure there are limitations, but it was easy enough to adapt our play for this event. Why are we hardly involved with our larger university? Our fellow students are the next decision makers, executives, politicians, and shapers of the world, still discovering for themselves their paths in life. It could not be more important that they get other perspectives on life than just what mainstream society has to offer.
They need someone to tell them to silence their phone for 90 minutes. They need to see stories like Romeo and Juliet to remind them that after all these years of history humans are still having the same problems, joys, and fears. Most of these students will not realize this for themselves, even if a teacher or some other authority figure tells them so. But they might if we do, their peers.
So, FELLOW (STUDENT) ARTISTS, we need to approach our peers with what we have to offer! We put so much of ourselves into this work, just to have it circulated back at us. If we want to effect the world, where better to begin than through those so much closer to us than we realize?
[…] I was struck by something that one of my fellow classmates, Rachel Rees, said in her post, “They need it more than we do.” She argued that the members of CFA should share their art with the larger university […]
[…] we in the SOT have to offer with a university-wide audience (See: Rachel Rees’ post “They need it more than we do“, Abi Oshins’ “We need them. They need us. Where’s the problem?” and […]