In writing about Tahatto‘s A Funny Thing Called Life, Sowmya made a remark that set me thinking of how a theatre troupe’s ability to connect with the audience can overshadow one’s actual opinion of the performance.
After the play was over, members of the Tahatto troupe mixed with the audience, thanked them personally for coming to watch the show and asked them for their feedback with humility. That was enough. It takes care of the rest.
This does happen – we are swayed by how nice the actors were to us, sometimes more than by how well they acted or how good the entire production was. She mentions another experience of the actors narrating personal stories in between set changes:
That was surely the moment that decided that the audience would applaud in the end, no matter how the play turned out.
The question is: should off-performance courtesies be enough?
A Boston-based theatre actor touches upon this subject in a fascinating article Why They Don’t Come Back.
I think it’s in our interest to be a lot harder on theatre-making. How many of your friends are working on a bad show right now? Why are we surprised when the audience is made up of mostly actors’ friends? Why do we profusely thank the audience for coming? Why does everyone compliment each other on a lackluster show? Enough with the pity party/circle jerk. Either try to blow the audience away, or don’t bother. Be harder on your friends. Save your glowing praise for work that deserves it.