Well, my concern about not having an audience was not founded. A big thank you to Rick Lombardo for presenting SJREAL so well in his pre-show speech that he convinced so many of The Rep’s audience members to attend the after-show.
As the hour approached when The Understudy was going to end – and our performance was going to start – my insides were all in knots, having really no idea what to expect. Then my friend Kimberly showed up, having escaped her house after the children went to sleep, and I was so excited to see her that I briefly forgot where I was. Then the playwrights showed up, and they both emanated such excitement, we could have powered the entire 4th floor rehearsal space with their energy.
The next thing I knew, the doors from the main stage opened, and people ran, yes, RAN out to line up for the SJREAL show. Great thing to remember: when you announce you have a very limited seat capacity (in our case 40), people get excited about securing one of those seats! Both performances went extremely well, the energy in the room from the audience was liberating, they laughed when it was funny, they smiled with melancholy when they remembered their childhood, and falling in love (all these being desired reactions). They stayed for the post-show discussion and gave constructive, useful feedback.
There is only one aspect of the entire experience that left me feeling unfulfilled. The fact that it was only one performance. The actors worked so hard for this performance. There was a lot of difficult text to memorize, delicate emotional places to go to, and all for one night.
I’ve never been one for one-night stands, and it looks like that aspect of my personality is still true.
I have brought this up at the most recent SJREAL meeting, and we are talking about changing the format. However short the play, there must be more than one performance in order to feel fulfilled, and in order to make better use of the audience feedback. So next season (based on the success of the first ever SJREAL project, we will continue the Friday Night Series) this change will take place.
I leave you with a picture of a dear moment of mine, the talk-back between audience, directors, playwrights, and actors. The moment when the artists hear what worked and what didn’t, what was clear and what was confusing, what was riveting, and what was boring. I can keep going…