Audience – Defining the Performance Space, Attracting and Maintaining an Audience for Static Shows.
Defining: For crowd gathering static shows in the outdoors, traditional theatrical audience configurations can be used and adapted.
End on – where the performance takes place at one end of the public space – against a wall, hedge or other barrier with the audience opposite facing the action. This is mostly used for larger scale events – e.g. aerial shows against a building.
Three sides – this is a popular format for static outdoor shows. There is a ‘back’ to the show and the audience are arranged on the three remaining sides. This is great for small and medium scale as it allows for maximum audience in close proximity to the action.
Traverse – where the action takes place in a linear fashion with the audience either side of the action facing each other.
In the round – the action is centred in the middle with the audience surrounding it on all sides.
Regardless of the audience configuration chosen for the show, careful consideration needs to be given to:
• Ensuring that your performance space is defined and maintained to give you sufficient room to perform and prevent the audience from encroaching on it or passing through it. This is essential for both the aesthetics of the production and the safety of your performers and audience.
• Where props and hand held items can be stored in view of actors and out of audience reach when not in use.
• How you organise your audience around your performance space. You need to consider accessibility for small children, wheelchairs, prams and control how people sit or stand to view the performance for the best viewing experience for all members of your audience and best performance experience for your actors.
Attracting: If you are performing at a festival with a timetabled programme, it is likely that a some people may gather in time for the start of your show, but it is useful to build “crowd attracting” material into your show such as:
• Signature music.
• Audience cheers and applause for the key characters or a preliminary action.
• Sending some actors out of the performance space to “drum up” or “bark up” the audience.
Maintaining: However experienced, creators of outdoor work will work hard to make sure the show retains the audience’s focus throughout, despite the distractions of passing traffic, passing people, music and sound “bleed” from shops, shows or generators, weather or access to the space by the emergency services.