Posts Tagged ‘Audience talkbacks’

Rude Mechs On Involving The Audience Early

Posted April 18th, 2013
They're not haters: Rude Mechs, hanging out. Photo by Rino Pizzi.

They’re not haters: Rude Mechs, hanging out. Photo by Rino Pizzi.

The Austin based Rude Mechanicals, last seen in Philly at the 2011 Live Arts Festival performing their show The Method Gun, has taken to the web pages of HowlRound to state the essential role audiences play in the development of their work. Particularly since their work is devised, made “collaboratively and on our feet,” getting audiences in on the process, finding out what works and what doesn’t, what’s compelling and what’s not, through workshop performances, talkbacks, and discussion, is integral to advancing both the quality and creative heart of their work. You sense a little at the proclamation that since they’re “not lazy assholes” who take their audiences for granted, they may have written this in part to give a kick in the pants to artists who are lazy assholes, and who whine about showing early stages of their work to live audiences.

Of course this very philosophy is at the heart of the Fringe Arts LAB, and the work developed by the LAB fellows and other artists through showings, most prominently through Scratch Night and production residencies. There is something refreshingly unapologetic about Rude Mechs statement, but at the heart of it, they are saying that not only does the audience matter, but that those audiences (particularly local audiences) participating in this process are key contributors to the artistic development and shape of the actual show. They should know, because the proof is in their shows.

Furthermore, they write, “Meeting the audiences’ desires is every bit as important as fulfilling our own artistic desires. An audience feels that when they walk through the doors of a venue—whether or not they were a part of the creation process. Audiences know how much they were considered, whether you gave any kind of shit that they are even there, whom you were expecting to come. And when they don’t feel considered, they shut down before they ever sit down. But if they do feel considered and cared for—in terms of making it engaging and pleasurable and challenging—all at once, that makes them very willing to go down whatever road we ourselves are on.”

Check out the whole article here. Be warned, it is also a bit of a love letter to Austin, and Austin audiences, with the kind of emotional sentiment most East Coaster will find repellent due to our gross cynicism.

–Said Johnson

On Talkbacks: Theater Artist Justin Jain Dissects The Form

Posted June 8th, 2012

Justin Jain is a Philly-based theater artist, member of The Berserker Residents, and a 2011–12 LAB Fellow.

Justin Jain, all set and ready to listen. And listen. And listen. Photo by Josh McIlvain.

Audience talkbacks and artist feedback sessions have always been tricky for me. Personally, if I am showing a work-in-progress, I will have already gained all the information I need for my future studio work during the showing itself. I read what resonates and what doesn’t by the audience’s reaction to the piece as it happens. The heat of performance changes everything–the performers step into a level of presence nearly impossible to recreate in rehearsal. It is this presence, and the physical focus of the audience, that allows everyone in the room to ride the wave of the piece together. I can hear the audience laugh at the parts that should (or shouldn’t) be humorous, I can feel the collective confusion or affirmation of moments in the performance, I can sense when the audience’s breathing changes—we all can.

On the other hand, more often than not, during feedback or talkbacks the information I am given from a particular audience is vastly mixed. Feedback participants need to know that the artist is in a very raw mental and emotional state. They have just shown their work—sometimes for the first time—and if they are not ready to receive general feedback, the comments made can indeed be detrimental to that artist’s process. For example, if the people giving feedback are not people I have personally gathered, whose opinions I truly value and whose tastes I understand (thus giving me an insight whether what they are responding to is genuine or simply playing into or against their aesthetic), sometimes the feedback reads as uneducated, uninformed, hurtful, or useless. And this goes for both positive and negative feedback. This is not always the case, but general audience members will speak to a moment I already know needs work, or they’re commenting on something that isn’t valuable at that particular stage in the process, or they praise something that suddenly locks that thing into place. I’ve participated in over a hundred talkbacks, both as artist and audience, and only a handful of those have been useful, practical, and poignant.

However, talkbacks are a now nearly ubiquitous part of the artistic process and can indeed be very helpful. And I, as an artist, will have to continue to participate in them. Different institutions have different models for these, and I have broken these into four models below. It is my hope that with the understanding of these models, the artists’ point of view, and how each of these can be helpful, we can all become better talkback participants.

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