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An Audience of One

Man in empty theatre

Earlier this week, Natasha Tripney wrote for the Guardian's Theatre Blog about being the only one in attendance at a play in London. She found herself to be the sole audience member for a mid-week performance of When Do We Start Fighting? at the Courtyard Theatre in Hoxton, and wrote about her discomfort and musings about the experience.

From "One is the loneliest number for an audience":

There are eight cast members. Eight people on stage and just me sat watching them, wondering quite where to look, where to aim my eyes. When one performer stepped forward to deliver a monologue, my instinct was to meet his gaze but then I thought that might prove distracting – so I settled on staring in a vaguely mid-torso direction...

Still, I kept wondering about the actors. How do they feel when faced with an almost empty room? Is it a dispiriting experience, expending all this energy for just one pair of eyes? Or is it part of the pact? An audience of one is, after all, an audience.

Tripney notes that some shows are designed for a small audience, or even a single audience member, but a small turnout for those performances is intentional.

Do you even clap at the end of the show if you're hte only one in attendance? Have you been the only spectator in an otherwise empty house? Or, have you performed to a nearly empty theatre? How do you deal with the awkward silence or a single pair of focused eyes? Do you just treat it as another rehearsal, or are you obligated to act as if there were 200 people watching instead of only one or two? Leave a comment below to share your experiences.

On a related note, Joe Queenan writes this week (also for The Guardian) about the way he is trying -- single-handedly -- to combat all these half-empty theatres by buying tickets for as many productions as he can possibly see.

The recession/depression/end of the world has led to steep discounts and increased availability for Broadway tickets. Which means that someone like Queenan, who admits his preference to music over theatre, can take advantage of deals and see high-profile shows with big-name stars, in a half-empty theatre for half-price.

From "I'm doing my bit to get America out of the recession -- by going to every Broadway show I can":

But when you can see plays of this quality featuring actors of this pedigree, you'd have to be a fool or a skinflint to pass up the opportunity. I am neither. What I am is a fiscal patriot....

I don't need theatre tickets. Yet I buy them, partly because they have never been cheaper - and partly because, if people don't start buying tickets to the theatre, they won't have any theatre left to go to.

I am not asking my fellow Americans to buy things they do not need. I am asking them to zone in on things they really do enjoy and spread their cash around. The situation is so desperate that I am willing to suspend my lifelong aversion to Andrew Lloyd Webber and encourage theatregoers to pony up for Phantom.

Queenan bases too much of his story on the same argument former President George W. Bush tried to sell for the past few years -- buying stuff can save the American economy, so instead of saving or investing, you should SPEND SPEND SPEND! Unfortunately, we've seen that this is not the case.

Nevertheless, empty seats mean empty theatres, and empty theatres mean productions and playhouses will continue to close like falling dominoes. Buying a new TV or car might not singlehandedly save the economy, but taking advantage of great deals on Broadway and at other theatre venues can at least give you a night of guilt-free fun -- before that show or theatre might disappear forever.

-- Daniel Lehman

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Comments

I remember seeing the Red Hot Chili Peppers in a place the size of a living room performing for 8 people.

The put as much energy into that show as the did when I saw them years later before and audience of 15,000.

very inspiring post!

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