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An Intimate Theatre: How Do We Find It?

The amount of times I have heard a production is “intimate” is now innumerable. I feel like whatever show I go to see I am prepared to see an intimate display, whether that be between and actor and an audience, two actors, or an actor and themselves. This may be because in a college setting most shows I see are physically intimate, having audiences inches away from the action, but it could also be because we don’t know how to find intimate theatre.

After reading this article I’ve gathered that there are a few different types of intimacy that seem to have impact in theatre. For the purpose of not writing a short book I’ll stick to what makes a show intimate for an audience.

The first is between the audience and the characters. This can be found in a number of ways whether it be by giving the audience extended amounts of time with the characters or by putting them right in the action.

So the actors can watch my reactions closely

The next type of intimacy would come from the audiences connection to a familiar face on stage. Unlike characters, having a celebrity or someone familiar face on stage makes the audience immediately feel more involved. Even if we don’t personally know the actor on stage we feel like we do because of recognition of who they are. This makes the show more intimate purely through familiarity

This can also be accomplished through how large you let an audience be and where you put them. If the show has a small audience it becomes easier for the actor to connect with each audience member. It also lets each audience member “feel” as though they are more involved in the story. Somehow being surrounded by less people lets each person feel like their emotional stake in the show is more important than it would if they were in a 1000 person audience.

Finally, intimacy can come in the connection of an audience to the words being spoken to them. Some shows have very little physical action, but the words being spoken are recognizable and easy to relate to. When an audience is on board with what is being said to them an instant intimacy can be found. This is why I find Chekhov plays to be intimate, as almost all of the stories are of family, or a slice of life, and I can instantly ease my way in to the show. I feel an intimate relationship with the text, and therefore an intimate relationship to the show.

So as I go into my first time directing I know I will be asking, how do I make this show intimate to the audience. What in my piece allows an intimate interaction between audience and theatre? Once I can answer that question, I will have eliminated the greatest obstacle a production can have.

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