Thursday, August 30, 2012

Audience Reactions

Performing for audiences is not the same thing as leading regular music therapy sessions. Working with groups on a weekly basis means getting to know them very well, both as individuals and as a group. There can be turnover in membership, but it tends to be slow and the group's identity remains stable and you get a good feel for how things are going to go.

With audiences it's like meeting a new person every time and you can never be sure what the chemistry will be, and often it seems the die is cast within the first few moments. I was reminded of this reading a post of Terry Teachout's talking about the first performances of a play he's written.

The most interesting part of seeing the play performed several times in a row has been the chance to see how different audiences react to it. When I wrote "Satchmo at the Waldorf", I never imagined that anybody would find it amusing--I expected it to get no more than a half-dozen laughs--and when Dennis Neal and Rus Blackwell staged the show in Orlando last fall, I was astonished to discover that the first two-thirds of the script played like a comedy. Much the same thing is happening in Lenox, albeit with the same wide variability of response that I first observed in Orlando. I suppose the best way to put it is that some audiences receive Satchmo at the Waldorf as a serious comedy and others as a funny drama. What's more, I can tell within a minute and a half of the beginning of the show which way it will be received on any given night.

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