It’s a little bit me; it’s a little bit you…

Who is your audience?  I challenge colleagues with this question frequently and badger myself with it constantly.  I am of a mind that a “general audience” does not exist, and to make work for such an imaginary crowd is merely avoidance of an important question in art-making: “For whom are you making this?”  I am also of a mind that if one is making work “for oneself,” one should present that work to one’s mirror and stay out of the theater.

With these self-imposed rules in mind, I began making a solo.  I planned never to subject an audience to what I knew full well was an entirely self-indulgent project.  After a few cathartic rehearsals however, I got bored.  Turns out, I’m not that interesting.  Or, at least, I’m not interested in myself as audience.

My self-centered solo performance project has therefore mutated (thank goodness) into a series of short solos to be performed for others.  I am creating each mini-piece specifically for an audience of one – each a person who has significantly impacted my work.  With any project, I try to know and respect my audience, but with this project, I went for literal.

Who knew pandering to an audience could be so artistically satisfying?

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3 Responses to It’s a little bit me; it’s a little bit you…

  1. Sarah Ganch says:

    Wow, I LOVE that idea; a piece specifically for one other person. Super cool.

  2. Sheila Lewandowski says:

    I continue to think about this question as an artist and the Executive Director of an arts venue. Audience must be considered when creating a piece, but when open to the public you have to be prepared for attendance by individuals you had not considered as part of your intended “audience.” When that happens how much responsibility do you (as artist or venue) have for those present for whom your art was not created, if any? I agree that “general audience” does not exist intentionally, but it does exist.

  3. smaxfield says:

    Thanks, Sarah G.

    Sheila, I should clarify that by “general audience,” I mean a mythical group of people who are just generally interested in one’s genre of work. These people, I maintain, do not exist. I really think that each person has specific reasons for their interest in, and attendance at, performance events. This is especially the case in New York where there are so many of these events, not to mention other unrelated activities, on which to spend one’s time. I think that often venues lump these individuals into groups to project “earned income” potential, instead of harnessing what is truly special about live performance — the people (individual, breathing, people) on BOTH sides of the proverbial footlights.

    However, your point about “unintended” audience is an interesting one. My take would be that, as much as possible, it could be worthwhile to find out what brought that audience to the performance. What were they expecting? What did they find? I don’t know that there’s a responsibility to adapt to them, and certainly, there are some cases where it’s just mistaken expectations or a bad fit, but often, there’s a learning opportunity on both sides to be had from some post-show conversation — as long as that conversation isn’t the deadly, over-structured, stuffy model that perpetuates in most venues.

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