Shows that involve audience participation are so exciting to me, because whenever I see a theatre piece, at least part of me wishes I was performing in it instead of sitting in the audience. My enjoyment of theatre is almost always slightly colored by the inescapable jealousy I feel toward the performers. Though I think this is something I specifically experience because of my love for performing, I don’t think stage-struck people like me are the only ones who can feel this way. Even those who are incredibly shy but love theatre, I would venture to guess, on some level have a desire to participate. It is this desire that Gob Squad and other groups are playing off of in pieces like Kitchen.
The key for them, though, is not to pick people like me to bring up on stage. I love being in front of an audience or in front of a camera…or both! Sure, I’d kiss a woman on stage. But I don’t know if it would be as interesting or dramatically compelling for the rest of the audience to see someone on stage who is essentially in their comfort zone. Now, of course, there still would be a level of discomfort because I (or any person with a performance background in this situation) would be unfamiliar with the situation, text, etc, but it wouldn’t be as pronounced as it is when the audience member is really taking a leap.
The man in the DVD of Kitchen who was chosen for the “screen test” portion was significantly less interesting to me than the woman in the “Sleep” scene. He seemed to me to have a level of confidence that bordered on irritating. At the same time, the participant Ilana described who was so shy she had to hide under the covers doesn’t sound like a particularly pleasant viewing experience either. But maybe we need more discomfort in the theatre. It’s too bad that it had to come at the expense of that woman, but she absolutely put herself in the situation and could have taken herself out at any point.
This new movement to break down the fourth wall, in fact to break down all the walls, is so exciting and beautiful and wonderful to me. “Demystifying” the theatre was one of the words that came up today in class, and I think it’s a really great one for what happens in this kind of piece. For much of my life I loved theatre as a sacred, vaguely magical event that I engaged with in a very serious way, whether I was acting or viewing. If you’d asked me a few years ago, I probably would have thought that demystification was a bad thing, because it risks taking the magic out. But now I feel like bringing in people who don’t necessarily love theatre with the fervent passion that those of us who make it do is one of the best things that could happen. The energy of freshness, spontaneity, and surprise that comes from a non-performer is something that no actor, no matter how talented, could really replication.
So I suppose if I have deemed myself unfit to participate in these interactive theatre pieces, my best option is to go out and create some myself.