Live Theatre: A Living, Breathing Experience

This week’s Playhouse Perspective blog is written by cast member Andrea Prestinario.

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James Leaming, Andrea Prestinario, and Jeffrey Binder

Tonight’s performance of It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play ended in black mascara running down my face.

It’s a usual affair that the emotional magnitude of one of the most beloved Christmas stories of all time swells to a place of emotion by the end of the second act. I play the character of Mary, George Bailey’s love and wife, and she is moved seeing the community heroically help her husband in a time of crisis.

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Andrea Prestinario and Jeffrey Binder 

But tonight was extra special because an older gentleman sitting front row center was weeping openly throughout the performance and it moved me / Mary to tears. Mascara-running-down-my-face tears.

If you’ve never performed on stage, you wouldn’t know that the audience plays an integral part in theatre-making for an actor. Actors spend a considerable amount of energy in communion with an audience: the audience is the final ingredient to making the magic complete. Whether the audience energy is crackling and vibrant or sagging and sleepy -we respond to it and we are affected by it, in the same way we respond to and are affected by our fellow actors on stage. Therefore, the audience plays a role – just like the actors play roles – in the kind of performance they’re receiving. The beautiful thing about live theatre is just that: it’s a living, breathing experience! That ephemeral, anything-could-happen feeling lights me up!

I feel the purpose of theatre is to connect humanity through storytelling. Seeing the man openly weeping front row center stimulated and reinforced our storytelling: I felt connected to this man. It reminded me of why we tell this story and why we do what we do. I wanted to know more about him and hear about his experience. I felt our shared humanity.

Having an audience is essential to a performance – it’s not theatre if we’re just performing by ourself in our living room! And when an audience member is responsive to the story, it feels that we have earned our paycheck for the day; we have done our job.

Audiences don’t always realize we can see them and hear them and that we are eager to have them respond visually and verbally. That’s why a cell phone ring or texting can be so obtrusive, and why jolly, boisterous laughter can be so gratifying. And when an audience isn’t engaged, we know we have to work harder. What’s that old theatre adage? “Louder, faster, funnier!”

As a professional actress, it is standard in our industry to perform eight shows a week. Even though we’re doing the same production eight times a week, every single show is different because of the live, ephemeral experience. So feel free to come back and see It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play a second time (or a third!), because it will undoubtedly be a different experience each time! And now you know that you, the audience, play an essential role. As the character Freddie Fillmore says: “feel free to applaud, laugh, swoon, or cry just as loudly as the spirit moves!”

 

For more information and tickets to It’s A Wonderful Life, go to https://www.gulfshoreplayhouse.org/2019-2020-season/its-a-wonderful-life/.
Photos by: Matthew Schipper

 

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