In his article for HowlRound Patrick Gabridge discusses the differences he noticed when his play, Lab Rats, was performed in Boston and when it was taken to Salisbury, Maryland. In Boston it was very well received, reading as an unusual but endearing love story between two people down on their luck participating in medical trials. When taken to Salisbury, however, the piece was met with discomfort as audience members cleared their throats and shifted in their seats every time the actors, playing an interracial couple, would touch or kiss, or even when the lady of the cast would swear.
This really struck me as and aspect of playwriting I genuinely hadn’t considered. That performing a play in one place could unintentionally mean something completely different in another, without having changed the text or the production intent at all. Shows tour all the time, this is not new but it never occurred to me that audience reaction could be so varied. But thinking more on it it makes perfect sense. The ways in which you receive or reject theater depends entirely on your own perspective and experiences which are largely influenced by your community and/or where you were raised. So yes, while an interracial couple in a major city is nothing out of the ordinary in a more rural town could very well ruffle some feathers.
This is especially potent considering the work that happens within our own CFA. Our audiences, for the most part, are either friends and family or other CFA peers. This means we have a network of supporting and safe spaces in which to do our work. This is ideal for an academic setting in which we are encouraged to take risks but does this make us unaware of how theatre is perceived by the world at large? What would it mean to do these production in another City? State? Country? Does it matter?
You can read Patrick’s terrific article here: