Slow food and slow theatre: metaphors and rethinking audience’s role.

By Anita Lauricella

I sometimes think we approach developing audiences in the way some of us were taught to eat our vegetables.  The issuance of a rather stern “eat the broccoli its good for you” married to an assumption that this knowledge would make me want to “friend” broccoli.   In theatre we develop friends and work on “education” through talk backs, reviews and program notes with a similar faith. We build opportunities that assume that if you only understood why this is wonderful you would come back and bring your friends.

The Slow Food movement has moved past this one dimensional approach to encouraging an appreciation of food.  Education, appreciation and connoisseurship are key aspects of the slow food movement.  But what is interesting to me is the message that says it is important to know how the food got to the market.  The slow food movement stresses demystifying the food production process.  They want us to know where and how the food was grown and how it got to the food stand or grocer.  Not only do they want us to know; they spend time developing a compelling narrative.  I buy local because the story of factory farms disgusts me and the story of the local farmer down the street is so compelling.

If the local audience can look behind the curtain and into a theater’s “production” process will they value and appreciate the performance?  I think I do feel more intrigued when I have been given a “back stage” view.   I appreciate a peep at the creative process and wonder if this feeling is shared by other audience members? For me this taste is the impetus for learning more; staying for a talk back or checking out a review.   A colleague tasked with developing some supporting educational panels was invited to attend and comment on rehearsals.  She loved it, but was it too much?  Did her knowledge of the director’s intent or the actors’ trials ruin the mystery that is part of the theatre experience?   Not in this case but maybe sometime; currently I know more than enough about Spiderman.

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  1. #1 by RVCBard on January 14, 2011 - 7:03 pm

    They want us to know where and how the food was grown and how it got to the food stand or grocer. Not only do they want us to know; they spend time developing a compelling narrative.

    That’s a pretty interesting way of looking at it. I’ve been trying to do something similar with my own work, but I don’t think it’s caught on yet. The funny thing is that I like involving the audience in that narrative. As much as I know it’s necessary, I get really tired of talking about myself. I want other people to discuss, debate, and otherwise engage with my work amongst themselves. How to do that, though, when our audiences are generally “trained” to be passive consumers?

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