The Gift of an Audience

Jeffrey Binder is the Artistic Associate at Gulfshore Playhouse. 

Hello Friends of Gulfshore Playhouse,

What a week! Our 4th Annual New Works Festival is well underway – four down, one to go. Lunch at Audrey’s will be presented for your viewing pleasure on Thursday, September 15th 2016 at 7 p.m. But that means that the four other plays of our Festival have already been presented: Paradise, Marla and Her Prayers, The Last Allegiance, and Miss Keller Has No Second Book. I wanted to share a few thoughts about the New Works Festival process and you, our audience, that struck me during the first part of our festival.

Jeffrey Binder, directing the cast of  Marla and Her Prayers

Over the course of the week, I was blown away by how educated, interested, and savvy our audience is at Gulfshore Playhouse. Kristen, Audrey, and I tend to gravitate toward plays that shake our basic assumptions of the world or that force us to re-evaluate our perspective on issues and themes. We love theatre that makes us laugh, cry, rage, gasp, but most of all, we love plays that make us think – plays that generate discussion and passion long after the last bow. Though our four offerings last week were varied in style (Persian epics to classroom dramas to dream-infused prison cells to straight up family comedy-drama), they all dug deeply into ideas of family, art, love, forgiveness, and loyalty. What do these words really represent? How do they define and change us? On top of all that, these plays were all so beautifully theatrical! And what impressed me the most is how willing… no, eager our audience was to dive right in! Whether or not you liked one show over another, whether one theme really struck you to the core while another left you cold, whether you were confused or uplifted – night after night I was amazed by the joy you, our GP audience, showed about being a part of this process. You engaged in each play with a hunger and an intelligence that was staggering. I wanted each of our talkback sessions to last for an hour longer than they did and evidenced by the number of you who came running up to the stage just as the talkback ended to express one more thought, make one more point, ask one more question, I could see that some of you did as well. Amazing!

Every time I was standing out in front of the house before a show began, more than one of you came up to give me a running tally of your take on these plays. More than one of you told me that you hadn’t slept well for more than one evening because you were so caught up in the work and the themes and presentation of these plays kept you thinking and questioning long after we turned off the lights to the theatre and went home. Fantastic!

The other thing that stayed with me is how generous you are. We work tirelessly to bring the finest artists we can into the Gulfshore Playhouse family, and you reciprocate by going out of your way to engage with the actors, the directors, and the playwrights. You stopped us on the street to talk to us. You stayed after all of the plays to share your thoughts and hear ours.  You are always respectful and complimentary but challenging and questioning. You show such a desire to be part of the dialogue of the modern American Theatre in our corner of the world that I’m positive the playwrights and actors who have shared their time with us here will head back to their homes in New York, Los Angeles, or Washington DC buoyed by the experience. I know I was.  This is the kind of attitude and engagement the New Works Festival needs in order to be successful. And you bring it. And the best part is, each year you bring it with more energy, more nuance, more confidence, and more depth than the previous year.

This is what excites me about being here at Gulfshore Playhouse – the community of theatregoers and artists that is being fostered here rising to the challenge of a complex, yet entertaining and satisfying offering of top-shelf dramatic literature that serves to excite, dare, and deepen us all. What a gift it is to be here, and what a truly magnificent group of people you are for helping to create and nurture this kind of artistic environment.

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